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Previous story Oregon Governor Kate. Brown lessens Oregon school reopening requirements Next story

Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on Saturday October 31, 2020 - 7:07 AM

PORTLAND, Oregon — Nearly 130,000 students could return to school soon under new school reopening guidelines from Oregon Kate Brown and the state Department of Education.

Governor Brown released her new plan that eases guidelines and allows districts to more easily achieve case rates and a positive testing percentage to reopen schools. The governor also got rid of the statewide positivity requirement, a metric that has prevented some districts from reopening despite meeting the local requirements.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 , caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 . The outbreak started in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of 31 October 2020, more than 45.4 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 200 countries and territories, resulting in more than 1.18 million deaths. More than 30.5 million people have recovered.

The pandemic was first confirmed to have spread to the United States in January 2020. Cases have been confirmed in all fifty U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and all inhabited U.S. territories except American Samoa. As of March 31, 2020, the U.S. has the most confirmed active cases in the world and ranks third in the number of total deaths from the virus.

Cases Oregon's first presumptive case was announced in Portland on February 28, 2020. Governor Kate Brown spoke and the director of the Oregon Health Authority confirmed someone from Washington County who worked at Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego was being treated at Hillsboro's Kaiser Westside Medical Center. The Lake Oswego School District closed the school for cleaning. The first case in Multnomah County and fifteenth in Oregon was confirmed on March 10; the patient was treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. An employee who worked at the Wells Fargo Center tested positive on March 14, prompting building tenant Davis Wright Tremaine to close offices in Portland. More than 30 people in the Portland metropolitan area tested positive by April 1.

The Healthcare at Foster Creek nursing home in southeast Portland was Oregon's largest coronavirus death cluster, as of mid April, with 50 confirmed cases and 14 deaths. The Oregon Department of Human Services identified many safety violations. On April 30, eleven cases were confirmed among the transient population in the Portland area. In May, the family of a man who died at Healthcare at Foster Creek sued for $2.4 million.

Researchers at OHSU have suggested Oregon's outbreak 'had one of the most diverse origin stories known so far in the United States'.

Government response Main article: U.S. state and local government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Closure notice posted at the Northwest Library on March 16, 2020 On March 13, the Portland Police Bureau announced a reduction of in-person responses to reduce virus transmission. Multnomah County Library closed all branch libraries and Portland Parks and Recreation closed arts and community centers, sports facilities, and swimming pools, based on recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Multnomah County Health Department, and the Oregon Health Authority. PPR canceled athletic programs and indoor activities at community centers, but did not close golf courses, natural areas, parks, playgrounds, or trails, or cancel outdoor events for less than 250 people. Portland Police have received 469 reports of social distancing violation between March 25, and April 14, yet have issued zero citations. The police reasoned that it would overburden the criminal justice system and compared the enforcement to enforcing every traffic violation being reported. In comparison, Manhattan Beach, California have issued 129 citations over a weekend in early April. Portland's Benson Bubblers were turned off from March 13 to April 17, based on the recommendations of the Multnomah County Health Department..

On March 17, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced plans to add as many as 400 beds for county residents affected by the pandemic requiring shelter. 120 beds were made available at the PPR-owned Charles Jordan Community Center in north Portland on March 19. Metro's Oregon Convention Center, unable to host events since March 12, was converted into a temporary shelter with 130–140 beds. The Joint Office of Homeless Services, a collaboration between the City of Portland and Multnomah County, hoped to open additional beds for healthy individuals as overflow from existing shelters. Trucks normally used by Multnomah Country Library and for animal control were repurposed to assist with the convention center conversion.

COVID-19 sign on a bus-stop shelter in Woodstock On March 22, Mayor Ted Wheeler said he was prepared to issue a stay-at-home order for Portland residents if Governor Brown would not issue a similar order for Oregon. The governor was also pressured by 25 Portland-area mayors, Metro's council, multiple county chairs, and other elected and health officials. She issued an executive order on March 23 requiring home isolation for Oregonians, with some exceptions, and to practice social distancing. Violators may be punished with 30 days in jail and fines as high as $1,250 as a class C misdemeanor. The Portland Police Bureau confirmed criminal citations were a 'last resort measure'. The police have issued a statement to the public to not call 911 to report violations of stay-at-home order, but to call the non-emergency line. In March, city official extended the Portland Arts Tax deadline from April 15 to July 15, 2020.

In early April, city officials cut approximately 950 jobs because of a potential revenue loss of as much as $100 million. Most of the jobs were seasonal and part of the parks department, including art and fitness instructors as well as lifeguards. Portland officials also asked state authorities to forgive missed mortgage and rent payments. In late April, Chloe Eudaly and the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced plans to shut down 100 miles of streets to automobile traffic to encourage social distancing for bicyclists and pedestrians. The project is officially called the 'Slow Streets|Safe Streets initiative'. Additionally, the Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services confirmed plans to close most offices. Six field offices, including one in southeast Portland, continued to operate 'by appointment only for limited commercial driver licensing services'.

In mid May, Portland Parks & Recreation confirmed all camps, public swimming pools, and recreation centers would remain closed through the summer. Clackamas County became the first of the three most populous counties in the Portland metropolitan area to reopen on May 23, 2020. Bars, gyms, restaurants, and other businesses could operate if specific safety criteria were met.

Multnomah County's application to reopen on June 12 was rejected by Governor Brown on June 11.

Economic impact Main article: Economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Empty latex glove shelves at a Rite Aid store in downtown Portland Delta Air Lines reduced flights between Portland and Japan. United Airlines cut 4 of 20 flights from Portland as well as one from Eugene. Sun Country Airlines reduced flights between Portland and Honolulu, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

School closures and event cancellations prompted people to stock up on groceries. Long lines were seen at grocery stores and food pantries throughout the Portland metropolitan area. Local cannabis dispensaries saw an increased demand as customers stocked up in case stores were forced to close temporarily. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission permitted stores to operate via curbside pick-up and home delivery temporarily.

Long line of people queued up in front of the BottleDrop redemption center in East Portland in April 2020. OLCC suspended the enforcement of the Oregon Bottle Bill on March 15 so that grocers can focus on restocking, sanitation and social distancing management. Grocers may elect to not accept bottle returns during this period. The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative which operates beverage container redemption centers throughout Oregon is keeping their centers open. The enforcement suspension remains in effect until two weeks after the county in which retailer is located enters phase 1 of reopening. The Oregonian reported on April 23 that the City of Portland has been operating a bottle return site at an 'undisclosed site in North Portland' based at one of the city's clinic that provides drug addicts with services such as clean syringes and opioid overdose antidote.

On March 28, Oregon temporarily lifted the prohibition on self-pump at gas stations to ensure fuel is available during staffing issues related to the pandemic. Stations are allowed to let customers pump their own gas through May 9.

Business closures and event cancellations Main article: List of events affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

People practicing social distancing while waiting to enter New Seasons Market in the Woodstock neighborhood Adidas closed offices at Montgomery Park and Portland Village after two employees had close content with someone who tested positive. Powell's Books five stores closed, and laid off most staff members. Portland Incubator Experiment canceled PIE Demo Day; the March 19 event scheduled to be held at Revolution Hall was held online. On March 25, Daimler Trucks North America shut down a plant on Swan Island until April 6. Portland-based companies Puppet and Vacasa laid off employees. In April, Evraz announced plans to lay off 230 employees at a Portland steel plant, and Precision Castparts Corp. confirmed plans to close its main Portland site.

Oaks Amusement Park and the Oaks Park Roller Skating Rink, the Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children's Museum, and Portland Japanese Garden closed as well. As of March 19, the Portland Art Museum and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry are closed through March 31 and mid April, respectively. The Crystal Ballroom and Hawthorne Theatre canceled or postponed planned shows through mid April. The City Club of Portland canceled activities. The Portland Rose Festival has postponed annual events, including the Starlight Parade, indefinitely.

The American Herbal Products Association's Hemp-CBD Congress, scheduled for mid April at the Benson Hotel, was canceled. The Road Runners Club of America's annual convention, slated to be held at the Hilton Portland Hotel during March 19–22, was also canceled. A conference on affordable housing, climate, and community stability featuring Julian Castro during April 2–4 was canceled. TechfestNW was to be held at Portland State University during April 2–3, but was rescheduled for August 6–7. April 11's Cider Rite of Spring was rescheduled for November, and Design Week Festival was moved from the week starting April 18 to August 1–8. The arts and technology festival XOXO scheduled for September has been canceled. Pride Northwest's annual pride parade has been postponed, and the Portland Retro Gaming Expo has been canceled. The Waterfront Blues Festival, slated for July 2–5, was canceled on March 25.

While cheer and dance competitions were still being held at the Oregon Convention Center in early March, many events planned to be hosted at the venue were canceled. On February 5, the Materials Show scheduled for February 12–13 was canceled. Gem Faire and the Multnomah County Democrats' annual Celsi Celebration slated for the weekend of March 21 were also canceled. On March 6, organizers of the Go West Summit, an international travel conference for March 24–27 expecting approximately 800 people, was postponed. The Oregon Dental Association's annual Oregon Dental Conference for April 2–4 was canceled. On March 9, the Burning Cat event being organized by the company behind the card game Exploding Kittens for May was canceled.

On March 14, the newspaper Portland Mercury suspended print publications until further notice. On March 23, restrictions prompted the closures of amusement parks, barber shops, bowling alleys, gyms, hair and nail salons, malls, spas, and theaters. In late April, activists and organizers of Portland's annual May Day protests in conjunction with International Workers' Day moved to host a 'Virtual May Day Rall'y on May 1. In May, organizers of Feast Portland announced the event would not be held as usual in September. The Portland Rose Festival held an online 'Opening Night Concert and Fireworks' event on May 22.

The gay bar and nightclub CC Slaughters announced plans to close indefinitely in October 2020.

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