Governor, health officials addresses state prior to Thanksgiving holiday

Gov. Kate Brown's sign language interpreter is seen during today's press conference. The screen is highlighting a slide presented by Dr. Dean Sidelinger. It shows the state's COVID-19 risk levels, with the majority of counties, including Malheur County, in the highest risk level.

ONTARIO

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday afternoon that Oregon has 1,100 new cases and 20 deaths reported on Wednesday amidst the two-week statewide freeze to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which goes through Dec. 3.

She said that measures similar to the freeze may be implemented in as many as 21 counties through the end of December, with the primary focus on counties with larger populations.

Brown said that now, as opposed to earlier in the year, “we know so much more” about the virus, how it’s spread and how to stay safer. She went on to mention that the state has already suffered through a “heartbreaking and historic wildfire season.”

Brown said that “COVID fatigue is a real thing” and that people are getting tired as a result. Despite this, she said that the state must remain vigilant in efforts to reduce the spread of this illness.

“We must double down on our efforts,” stated Brown.

She encouraged residents of the state to “make smart choices this holiday weekend” that are aimed at protecting oneself and others.

“I promise you, this isn’t forever, it’s just for now,” Brown said.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, State health officer and epidemiologist, gave more details on what the revised guidelines are pertaining to social gatherings.

He said the new guidelines, which will take effect following the end of the freeze on Dec. 3 will favor outdoor activities over indoor ones and will include wearing a mask outside the home and sometimes “inside the home to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Sidelinger also said these guidelines include avoiding prolonged exposure to others outside of one’s home. He also said that “risk criteria” will be updated weekly based on the data of cases per 100,000 people over a two week period in large counties.

Malheur County is among 21 counties that are listed under the state’s “County Risk Levels” as being in the “Extreme Risk” category.

Sidelinger also said that they will evaluate data pertaining to people seeking care for COVID-like illnesses.

Activities will be either allowed or prohibited based on the given county’s COVID-19 Risk Level.

“On Friday, we reported that COVID-19 was spreading dangerously in Oregon. And that the pandemic is at a dire point,” stated Sidelinger.

He said that the exact number of new daily cases as of Wednesday evening is 1,189 along with the 20 deaths.

Sidelinger said that Oregon has had more than a tripling of COVID hospitalizations since October.

Patrick Allen, director of Oregon Health Authority, reminded that these protections are not forever.

He highlighted data about economic stability and food insecurity. Some of the most significant numbers he threw out were the increase in cannabis and liquor sales during the pandemic. Allen said cannabis sales went up nearly 70% and liquor sales have nearly doubled over last year, indicative that people are seeking ways to handle stress.

“The hard reality is this there is no normal while the virus rages unchecked,” he said.

Furthermore, Allen said, there is no healthy economy while COVID circulates widely in public places.

“A healthy community is necessary for a healthy economy,” he said. “And we can’t have a fully functional economy while people are reluctant to be around each other.”

He said today’s measures strike “balance between caution and pragmatism,” adding that it is “not a one-size fits all approach.”

The new plan gives communities “control over their own destiny.”

Dr. David Zonies, associate chief medical officer, Oregon Health & Science University said hospitalizations are rising at his facility.

“No one has unlimited resources and our health systems are being stressed by a virus that is deadly and preventable,” he said.

Zonies urged citizens to remain vigilant and think of the health of friends and families

“Our ask is a hard one,” he said. “We’re asking people to make smart choices, so people can experience the joy of gathering for future holidays.”

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