SALEM, Ore. (AP) — All gatherings of more than 250 people are banned statewide in Oregon for four weeks to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus under an order issued by Gov. Kate Brown, who said “it's time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread.”
A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which a minimum of three feet (one meter) cannot be maintained, the order issued late Wednesday specified.
Also late Wednesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported two men in their 80s at the Oregon Veterans' Home in Lebanon have become infected with COVID-19, with the statewide total being 21.
Officials assume that thousands of Oregonians will get the new coronavirus. The governor of neighboring Washington state has predicted cases numbering in the tens of thousands there.
Brown, who was to speak at a news conference Thursday morning in Portland, said all non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities should be canceled — such as group parent meetings, field trips, and competitions.
She also recommended businesses implement an increased physical space between employees, limit travel, and stagger work schedules where possible.
“Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone," she said in a statement.
Other regions have ordered different limits on events because of the COVID-19 crisis. Santa Clara County in California, for example, banned events with more than 1,000 attendees, while a ban in three counties in the Seattle metro area applies to gatherings of over 250 people.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover within a few weeks.
Brown wrote Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump's point man on fighting the virus, on Wednesday to remind him of her March 3 request for 600,000 surgical masks, 400,000 N-95 respirators and other personal protective equipment.
“To date, we have received none of the requested PPE,” Brown wrote, also addressing the letter to leaders in Congress.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, criticized the lack of response.
“Not only has Oregon received none of that equipment, they haven't even gotten a response. No plan, no urgency, no leadership,” Merkley said Thursday on Twitter.
The University of Oregon announced Wednesday that classes this week would continue as scheduled, but all final exams next week will be conducted remotely and future classes would be taught online. Oregon State University announced that while campuses and facilities will remain open, final exams and activities will be delivered remotely where possible. Where remote teaching and other activities is not possible, maximum social distancing measures will be utilized.
Portland State University in Multnomah County, where one case was reported on Tuesday, is recommending classes be held online when possible, including for final exams next week, but is stopping short of closing.