PORTLAND, Ore. — All Oregon State Parks are set to close Monday in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.
The temporary closure signals the state’s latest effort to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed five people in Oregon. The measure was announced the same day as 24 new cases of the virus and the fifth Oregon death.
State park day-use areas will close starting at 5 p.m. Monday, and campers must check out of the parks no later than 1 p.m.
Campers will get refunds for canceled nights. No reopening date has been announced.
“We would have preferred an orderly shutdown of the system and to remain open for daytime visits, but our concern for the effects on rural health care systems requires us to move up and expand our plans,” Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said in a statement. “We know this will cause a disruption, since we’re suspending service to everyone, even people who live near a park. Reducing contact between people is more important than recreation at the moment.”
The agency said it has the ability to close beaches, as well, and will do so “if social distancing practices are not followed.”
Meanwhile, thousands of Oregonians have swarmed the coast, catching communities off guard and prompting spirited directives for tourists to return home.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not just an opportunity for a traveling vacation,” said Tillamook Mayor Suzanne Weber in a video message. “It’s a threat to our very lives.”
Tillamook County, for example, announced Sunday morning it had closed all access to state and local parks and would limit access to beaches.
Further north, the city of Warrenton closed campgrounds and gave visitors 24 hours to leave.
Travelers have also brought on problems in the Columbia River Gorge, whose famous Historic Columbia River Highway saw mid-summer traffic volumes last week.
“Parking lots and roadside parking overflowed this week with cars parking in ditches and blocking intersections,” the state department of transportation said Friday.
Authorities also announced on Sunday a closure of the Multnomah Falls plaza, viewing areas and trail to the top of the famous waterfall.
“It has become clear that some platforms and viewing areas at Multnomah Falls attract groups, making it nearly impossible for people to practice proper social distancing,” Lynn Burditt, forest supervisor for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said in a statement. “All federal agencies have been asked to do their part to help prevent the spread of COVID‑19, so after observing the behavior of people at the site we determined we had to take action to help protect the community.”
The Multnomah Falls closure will begin at 6 a.m. Monday.
Lori Tobias contributed to this report.
This article was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.