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Oregon GOP members want COVID-19 restrictions lifted for rural counties; protests planned at capitol next month

Senate Republican leadership says they want to "return to a new normal and get back to work."
Credit: Andrew Selsky
The State Capitol in Salem, Oregon.

SALEM, Ore. — Nearly a month has passed since Gov. Kate Brown enacted a state-wide executive order for Oregonians to stay home in an effort to flatten the curve of coronavirus.

Oregon Senate Republicans now want portions of Oregon's economy to reopen, and released a statement on April 20 they plan on "ramping up pressure" on Gov. Brown to do so.

Seventy-five Oregonians have died of coronavirus as of Monday, April 20; 1,956 have tested positive and 38,089 have tested negative. 

Here's the breakdown of coronavirus cases in each of the Oregon counties designated as "rural" by the OHA:

  • Baker: No positive cases, no deaths
  • Crook: 1 positive, 0 deaths
  • Deshutes: 64 positive, 0 deaths
  • Gilliam: No positive cases, no deaths 
  • Grant: 1 positive, 0 deaths 
  • Harney: No positive cases, no deaths 
  • Hood River: 4 positive, 0 deaths 
  • Jefferson: 1 positive, 0 deaths 
  • Josephine:19 positive, 1 death
  • Lake: No positive cases, no deaths 
  • Mahleuer: 5 positive, 0 deaths
  • Morrow: 5 positive, 0 deaths
  • Sherman: 1 positive, 0 deaths 
  • Umatilla: 27 positive, 0 deaths
  • Union: 4 positive, 0 deaths
  • Wallowa: 1 positive, 0 deaths
  • Wasco: 10 positive, 0 deaths
  • Wheeler: No positive cases, no deaths 
  • TOTAL: 143 positive cases, 1 death

RELATED: Hundreds disregard Oregon stay-at-home COVID-19 order, gather to protest in Redmond

“I have been in daily conversations with the governor advocating for her to lift economic and lifestyle restrictions in rural Oregon and those areas of the state that haven’t been as impacted by COVID-19. The rural districts my caucus and I represent should be able to return to a new normal and get back to work," Herman Baertschiger Jr. (R-Grants Pass) said in a news release.

According to a spokesperson with the Senate Republicans, they want to see rural hospitals reopen, and want the state to reopen depending on geography, not in a "one size fits all" approach.

Additionally, a "Reopen Oregon" rally is scheduled for Saturday, May 2 on the steps of the capitol. Similar protests have been held in several states across the country, including Colorado, Washington and Pennsylvania. 

RELATED: Thousands gathered in Olympia to protest Gov. Inslee’s stay-at-home order

Gov. Brown's stay at home order is still intact, and last week, she detailed her framework for slowly reopening portions of the state economy. She said before any restrictions are lifted, the state would have to meet the following prerequisites: 

  1. Slowed growth: fewer cases of COVID-19
  2. Adequate PPE to protect health care workers and first responders
  3. A robust public health framework: increased testing, contact tracing and effective isolation

The governor said she couldn't give a specific time frame for when the state will begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions. "I’m not going to put a date on this," she said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Brown's office said they are aware most rural counties have no cases or very few cases, and would likely reopen county by county or by regions once criteria is met.

"Given current data trends, we would expect that the first counties that could be eligible to begin the process of reopening will be in rural Oregon—but only if we can ensure those counties have adequate testing capacity, sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment, and the public health staff for contact tracing," the spokesperson said. 

RELATED: Gov. Brown unveils framework for easing COVID-19 restrictions in Oregon

RELATED: Oregon coronavirus updates April 20: 400,000 PPE items distributed to long-term care centers