The trade group for Oregon's public health professionals has joined the demand for the state to enact more extreme social distancing policies.
"We think it's better to get in front of this," says Robb Hutson, president of the board for the Oregon Public Health Association. "As a board, we are supporting shelter in place or extreme social distancing."
That position casts doubt on the argument Gov. Kate Brown has been relying on to defer action on a shelter in place policy. She says she's acting on the advice of public health officials.
"As Gov. Brown has said before, all options are on the table as the situation and level of COVID-19 spread warrants," says spokesman Charles Boyle. "As I stated previously, we are focused on implementing the existing aggressive social distancing measures, and on expanding hospital capacity. If it becomes clear that Oregonians are not following those social distancing measures already in place, the governor will take further action."
Hutson says his board wants to be clear that while he believes the state should move forward, what the board is asking for is "not a complete lockdown."
As Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler outlined yesterday, as the city weighs such a policy, shelter in place allows people to leave their home for essentials, like groceries, medicine and doctor visits, as well as for exercise. Essential businesses would be allowed to stay open.
Hutson also advocates that state officials allow people to remain at workplaces, such as construction sites, that have plenty of room to practice social distancing.
He says it's also necessary to radically increase the availability of testing for COVID-19 and provide economic supports, particularly for workers unable to collect unemployment insurance because they are independent contractors in the gig economy or rely on tips.
"They will not be able to afford to live," he says. "We absolutely have to do something for people."
Update, 4:15 pm: This story has been updated to include a comment from the governor's office.