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Previous story The Governor Canceled Thanksgiving. Why Not Black Friday? Next story

Story by Tess Riski - - Story Source
Published on Monday November 23, 2020 - 6:37 AM

Large Thanksgiving celebrations are canceled in Oregon. But in-person shopping on Black Friday, the busiest retail day of the year, will carry on virtually unabated in one of the few states with no sales tax.

Gov. Kate Brown invoked her emergency authority Nov. 13 to threaten criminal sanctions against those who gather in groups larger than six in private homes between Nov. 18 and Dec. 2, effectively prohibiting Thanksgiving Day gatherings statewide.

That's a measure that health experts say can save lives and free up increasingly scarce hospital beds. It's the next day, however, that may be cause for concern.

Read More Per Brown's executive orders, in-person retail can remain open during her two-to-four-week "freeze."

The one caveat is that retailers must limit in-store capacity to 75% in an effort to increase social distancing and, ultimately, mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

An expert on indoor air quality is skeptical whether that's enough.

"We are in an infection inferno that will only grow for the next six weeks or more," says Richard Corsi, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University. "Bringing people together during Black Friday or any other time is just pouring fuel on the fire."

Oregon business groups, ravaged by the pandemic, lobbied hard for the governor to limit restrictions before her Nov. 13 announcement. They were partly successful: The governor arrived at the 75% store capacity after communicating with Oregon Business & Industry.

"We appreciate that Gov. Brown worked with us on the retail capacity issue before she announced the restrictions," says Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for OBI. "While capacity limitations have been a challenge, especially for our small businesses with small spaces, we're hearing from our members that the 75% limitation is probably workable this season."

Liz Merah, a spokeswoman for the governor, says the state looked at "a variety of capacity limits for indoor and outdoor retail" ranging from 25% to 75%. "After receiving feedback from stakeholders and health experts," Merah says ...