Governor not ready to lift restrictions for state – although some rural areas with few cases may begin opening May 15

Gov. Kate Brown listens in during a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence and other governors on Monday, April 20. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon has a long way to go before lifting restrictions, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday.

Instead of forecasting when life would edge closer to normal, Brown announced more determined state efforts to test Oregonians for COVID-19 and increased work to trace the movement of the virus from one person to the next.

Brown said the earliest any section of Oregon could open would be May 15 – and then only in rural counties with few coronavirus cases.

She also announced that Oregon Health and Science University would manage a study of 100,000 Oregonians. OHSU will seek volunteers from all areas and demographic groups in the state to monitor for a year to give health authorities more clear information about how COVID-19 is moving through the state.

Brown gave no indication when people in the most populous areas of Oregon could return to places such as restaurants and salons, among steps being proposed for a phased reduction in the restrictions. She acknowledged that it would happen “much more slowly than any of us would like.”

Even then, the governor said, Oregonians should prepare to continue social distancing, keeping six feet apart from others, wearing masks, and staying home when sick.

“Hand shaking is probably out the window for a long time,” Brown said. “It is just going to be a different type of normal.”

She said social distancing would be part of life in Oregon until a vaccine or treatment is developed for the respiratory disease that so far has killed 103 Oregonians.

Brown said the state’s major hospital systems are uniting behind an effort to manage testing for the virus throughout the state, working in turn with rural hospitals.

“In order to reopen and hopefully stay open, we must have randomized, widespread testing across the entire state,” she said.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer, said “we need to be proud” that Oregonians generally complied with the state’s restrictions. He said such measures kept an estimated 70,000 people from becoming infected with the virus.

He warned, though, that as Oregon opens up and people begin moving around more, the number of infections will go up. He said new measures health officials were putting in place are intended to quickly track such new infections and contain them.

Dr. Danny Jacobs, OHSU president, added that “Oregon has successfully flattened the curve” of infections. He said returning to anything like normal will require a better understanding of where the disease is, how common it is and how it is transmitted around the state.

“Our work is not finished and we must proceed with extreme caution,” Jacobs said. He said acting too hastily could result in a second wave of infections.

Contact editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].


As long as we can, the Malheur Enterprise will provide free access to all stories related to COVID-19. With businesses closed and not advertising, community support for this service is vital. Help one of two ways:

SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically.

DONATE – to our LOCAL NEWS FUND. Tax deductible, and anonymous if you wish.

Thank you!