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VERIFY: Q&A about new COVID-19 restrictions during freeze in Oregon

Viewers continue to ask the KGW VERIFY team about what will be open and closed during the two-week statewide freeze.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Wednesday, Nov. 18, will mark the beginning of a statewide two-week freeze in Oregon in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection rates. Over the past few weeks Oregon has seen a surge in coronavirus cases. As such, Gov. Kate Brown announced on Nov. 13 that a statewide "freeze" would go in effect this week. Since then, businesses and individuals have been in preparation for the lockdown.

KGW has received questions from viewers regarding this upcoming lockdown. Our sources for this Q&A come from the governor’s office, as well as Oregon.gov and Multnomah County.

Q: What is open and what is closed during the Oregon statewide freeze?

A: Gyms/fitness centers, museums, movie theaters, zoos, gardens, aquariums, venues, and other non-essential facilities must close down for the mandatory freeze. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail stores will be open during the freeze, but they will be limited to a maximum capacity of 75%. Restaurants and bars will be limited to takeout exclusively.

Q: Is it true that Multnomah County will remain under the freeze for at least 4 weeks?

A: Some “hot spot” counties, including Multnomah County, will remain under the COVID-19 freeze for at least four weeks. As of now, the freeze will end on Dec. 16 for the county. Multnomah County is Oregon’s most populous and carries a large risk for mass spreading of coronavirus infection.

RELATED: Multnomah County chair on pandemic, new restrictions: ‘Toughest thing I think our community has ever gone through’

Q:  Are there any exemptions for faith-based group gatherings?

A: Faith-based gatherings and organizations will have their capacity reduced to 25 people indoors, and 50 people outdoors.

Q: Can I visit my loved ones in their long-term care facilities?

A: There will be no indoor visitation at long-term care facilities during the 2-week freeze. Restrictions apply to nursing homes, assisted living, residential care, adult foster homes and group homes for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Q: What effect will the freeze order have on schools?

A: Liz Merah at the governor’s office said, “The limit on indoor social get-togethers does not apply to classroom instruction.”

This means that the restriction on social gatherings that limits them to no more than six people total, from no more than two households does not apply to schools, both public and private.

Q: Why aren’t shopping malls included in the freeze?

A: The goal of the freeze is to increase social distancing by limiting gatherings and reducing the number and frequency of public interactions. Shopping malls will not be closed during the freeze

“Shopping malls differ from restaurants in terms of the ebb and flow of customer traffic, and the ability to keep face coverings on for the entire duration of a shopping trip," said Merah, from the governor's office.

Shopping malls and retail establishments are required to follow health and safety guidelines by enforcing at least six feet of physical distance between customers.

A new executive order and sector-specific guidance will be posted to the governor’s coronavirus web page.

Q: What are the consequences of not following Governor Brown’s 6-person personal gathering rule?

A: Governor Kate Brown’s Office released a statement on Nov. 17 stating that COVID-19 poses a dangerous threat, and if individuals are not going to take the virus seriously, the state is prepared to offer consequences. This means that the Governor’s Office has partnered with Oregon law enforcement to hold people accountable in their social distancing. If a violation of the statewide freeze is cited criminally, violators will be subject to punishment of up to 30 days in jail, a $1,250 fine, or both. These measures are being taken to curb the spread of Covid-19 and save lives.

Q: Are face masks required anywhere outside?

A: The Governor’s website stated that face masks are required statewide at all times. The only exceptions to this mandate are:

  • At your own residence
  • In your car
  • Under 5 years of age
  • Eating or drinking
  • Engaged in an activity that does not facilitate wearing a mask e.g. taking a shower
  • Sleeping
  • In a private individual workspace
  • Removing the mask briefly because your identity needs to be confirmed by visual comparison, such as at a bank or if interacting with law enforcement

Their website adds, “If you have a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe or a disability that prevents you from wearing a mask, you can request an accommodation from the business or venue or transit authority.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority, you must wear a mask outside if you can't maintain 6 feet of social distance 

Masks are a proven and effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19. It should also be noted that the Oregon Health Authority stated that plastic face shields are not effective enough on their own, and if worn, should be done so in conjunction with a face mask.

Q: Can you visit state and community parks?

A: Parks will remain open during the freeze with certain requirements. Face coverings must be worn at all times while in the parks. Parties must be limited to no more than six people. Maintain at least 6-feet of distance between parties on hiking trails, beaches, etc. Park-goers must comply with all Statewide freeze guidances.

Q: Why are Oregon Casinos allowed to be open with their restaurant & bars open?

A: Oregon tribal casinos will not be impacted by the statewide 2-week freeze. The Oregon Health Authority clarified that since native American tribes in Oregon are not subject to the Governor’s executive orders tribal-owned establishments like casinos are allowed to stay in operation. Oregon’s tribal casinos have set in place temperature checks and mask mandates. In addition, some casinos like the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde have become non-smoking facilities until further notice. 

Q: Will outdoor dining still be available at food cart pods?

A: Any on-site outdoor dining is not permitted under the Governor’s Executive Order. Liz Merah commented,

“Per the Executive Order, paragraph 4(a)(1), during the freeze period, restaurants, bars, taverns, brewpubs, wine bars, wineries, cafes, food courts, coffee shops, clubs, or other similar establishments that offer food or drink may not offer or allow on-premises consumption of food or drink, inside or outside.”

Establishments can only offer takeout food for off-site consumption.

Q: Are dentists' offices allowed to be open during the statewide freeze?

A: Liz Merah at the Governor’s office commented,

“The Two-Week Freeze does not impact the operation of dentist offices. However, they are still required to comply with Oregon Health Authority guidance.”

Dentist offices will remain open during the 2-week freeze.

Do you have something you want us to Verify? Let us know. Email us at Verify@kgw.com

RELATED: OSHA implements temporary COVID-19 rules for Oregon businesses

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