PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday warned business owners that there will be consequences if they choose to reopen in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“I am urging all Oregon businesses to put the health of their communities first by following the guidance we have in place for their counties,” Brown said in a statement. “A large majority of businesses continue to do the right thing to protect their communities. However, when Oregonians don’t take COVID-19 seriously, and don’t take steps to reduce the spread of the disease, they put all of us at risk.”
A rally in Estacada earlier this week called for businesses, like restaurants and small stores, to reopen Jan. 1, even though Clackamas County is still considered at “extreme risk” for the potential spread of the coronavirus. Counties in the extreme risk category, which make up most of Oregon, are only allowed to offer outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. Other businesses, such as indoor gyms, must stay closed.
“If businesses reopen too early and instead create new spikes in COVID-19 cases, the actions of a few business owners could set entire communities back and keep them in the Extreme Risk category for even longer,” Brown argued.
About 100 people attended the Estacada rally, including the mayors of Estacada and Sandy, as well as the mayor-elect of Molalla.
“As far as the numbers going up, they’re not going up in our restaurants,” Molalla Mayor-elect Scott Keyser said during the rally. “Our restaurants, bars, businesses in our cities are practicing safe measures. They’re cleaning tables, they’re making people practice social distancing. And it’s a lot safer than doing any sort of gatherings in our homes.”
Brown said local elected officials don’t have the power to allow businesses to reopen against state guidance. She said businesses will be subjected to fines if they defy restrictions.
“Let me be clear: Local elected officials do not have the authority under Oregon law to disregard my emergency orders or to authorize anyone else to do so,” Brown said. “Any businesses that reopen in violation of state risk level requirements for their county will be subject to fines and enforcement.”
Starting Jan. 1, six counties that have been in the extreme risk category will be moved into the “high risk” category, which eases some restrictions on businesses. Those counties are Baker, Clatsop, Coos, Douglas, Lincoln and Morrow. Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Lake, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler counties are considered at “low risk” for coronavirus spread, the least-restrictive of the state’s four-tiered risk categories.