On Thursday, Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown extended her state of emergency declaration until March, arguing “these are the darkest days of this pandemic.”
The declaration, which provides the legal underpinning for Brown to enact executive orders banning business operations and closing schools, was set to expire on Jan. 2, but now has been extended an additional 60 days and will end on March 3.
Brown cited a continued surge of positive coronavirus cases in the state as the reasoning behind the extension.
“As we near 100,000 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, and with hospitals and health care workers stretched to their limits, there is no doubt that COVID-19 continues to pose a public health threat,” Brown said in a news release. “We continue to lose too many Oregonians to this deadly disease, including over 100 reported deaths in the last two days.”
“These are the darkest days of this pandemic,” she added, even while acknowledging that “hope has arrived” in the form of an approved vaccine.
“Beginning this week, each time another Oregonian is vaccinated against COVID-19, we are one step closer to the day when we can return to normal life. In the meantime, we must keep up our guard,” she said. “Protect your friends and loved ones by continuing to follow health and safety protocols. Wear a face covering, avoid gatherings, stay home when you are sick and, together, we can drive down COVID-19 infections and save lives.”
Brown’s lockdown orders place varying levels of restrictions on residents dependent upon their county’s placement in the state’s four-tiered risk-based framework. According to KGW-TV, effective through Dec. 31, there are 29 counties at the extreme risk level, one county at moderate risk, and six counties at lower risk.”
In counties at extreme risk, social gatherings of more than six people are prohibited, indoor dining is banned, and indoor recreation and entertainment establishments are closed by mandate. Retail stores are also required to limit capacity to 50% while religious institutions are required to limit capacity to 25%.
On the same day as the statewide extension, officials in Multnomah County — the state’s largest county and home to Portland — extended its local state of emergency declaration by six months, making the order effective through July.