Oregon Governor Imposes Statewide “Freeze” to Curb COVID-19 Spread, Restricting Bars and Restaurants to Takeout Service

The restrictions take effect Nov. 18. Store capacity will be limited and gyms and other indoor spaces closed.

Sunset on West Burnside Street. (Brian Burk)

Gov. Kate Brown announced today she's imposing a two-week "freeze" on many activities in Oregon because of the sharp increase in COVID-19 infections.

The new restrictions, which go into effect Nov. 18, include restricting bars and restaurants to takeout only, limiting in-home gatherings to six people from no more than two families, capping grocery and retail stores to 75% of capacity, and limiting attendance at churches to no more than 25 people indoors or 50 outside.

The restriction on social events in private homes will be in effect on Thanksgiving Day.

For counties that have seen a particularly large increase in COVID-19 cases, Brown said the freeze would last at least four weeks. One of those counties is Multnomah.

"As the most populous county in Oregon with the bulk of the state's COVID-19 cases and half of the state's hospital beds, we must immediately take steps to slow the current surge," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said in a statement. "In the last month, we have seen our daily case count triple, including hundreds of cases in the community that can't be traced to known cases or outbreaks. If we don't implement these measures now, we have modeling that shows we will see thousands more cases per week by the end of November."

Brown also said today that she has directed the Oregon State Police to begin coordinating with local law enforcement agencies to police the restrictions on in-home gatherings. Brown noted that households that violate the six-person limit will be committing a misdemeanor and could be to subject to citation or arrest.

"We have not chosen to enforce the law in the past," Brown said. "Unfortunately, now we have no other option."

Brown also wants Oregonians to continue wearing masks when outside their homes and work from home as much as possible.

The state released new daily data Friday, reporting 1,076 new cases, the second consecutive day above 1,000 cases.

Brown's announcement came as hospitals moved to cancel elective procedures because beds were filling with COVID-19 patients.

"Our hospitals have been sounding the alarm," Brown said.

On Friday morning, Oregon Health & Science University told WW that 90% of its intensive care beds were full, a worrying sign for capacity statewide.

At the press conference Friday, OHSU chief medical officer Dr. Renee Edwards explained that ICU beds are necessary for people who have had major surgery, suffered heart attacks or experienced other significant injuries. As COVID-19 patients increase, the capacity for both groups of patients—those infected and not infected with the coronavirus—is rapidly disappearing.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the Oregon Health Authority's top health officer, said hospitalizations are a lagging indicator: Patients often don't require hospitalization until a couple of weeks after a COVID-19 diagnosis. That means the current strain on hospital capacity does not yet reflect the enormous increase in COVID-19 cases, which Sidelinger noted had increased 46% over the past week.

"COVID is raging across Oregon," Sidelinger said. "We will put an urgently needed break on its accelerating momentum."

Related: Oregon Tops 1,100 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in a Single Day

Oregon, California and Washington also jointly announced new guidance on travel today, asking residents to eliminate all nonessential travel and to self-quarantine for 14 days when returning from outside their home states.

Here's the entire list of restrictions Brown announced today:

The Two-Week Freeze measures include:
· Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households.
· Limiting faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
· Limiting restaurants and bars to takeout only.
· Closing gyms and fitness organizations.
· Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts.
· Closing outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools.
· Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
· Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
· Closing venues (that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events).
· Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public.
· Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities.

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