SALEM, Ore. — With officials assuming that thousands of Oregonians will get the new coronavirus, an Associated Press source says Gov. Kate Brown is preparing to announce steps to stem the spread of the disease, including policies that could restrict large gatherings similar to those imposed on the Seattle area.
The Oregon Health Authority reported six new cases Wednesday, including two cases involving men in their 80s at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon. The total number of cases is statewide is 21.
Brown’s announcement on Thursday will address mass gatherings, social distancing, workplace practices and other efforts to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus, Brown’s office said in a statement. The statement did not contain details of possible directives.
Brown and her team are working with authorities in three counties in the Portland area, said the source close to the governor’s office who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorize to discuss the matter publicly. Officials were deciding on the numbers threshold of gatherings that could be restricted, the source said.
Other regions have ordered different limits on events because of the COVID-19 crisis. Santa Clara County in California, for example, banned events with more than 1,000 attendees, while a ban in three counties in the Seattle metro area applies to gatherings of over 250 people.
Also Brown’s team was wrestling with whether it should be a ban or a strong recommendation, and how long it should last, the source said.
Authorities’ frame of mind is that thousands of people in Oregon either have the virus or are going to get it and the state must try to slow the rate of transmission and not overwhelm the hospital system, the source said.
At a news conference, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also said this state is preparing for potentially tens of thousands of cases, based on estimates of the spread of the disease.
“If we assume there are 1,000 or more people who have the virus today .. .the number of people who are infected will double in five to eight days,” Inslee said. “If you do the math, it gets very disturbing.”
Brown wrote Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump’s point man on fighting the virus, on Wednesday to remind him of her March 3 request for 600,000 surgical masks, 400,000 N-95 respirators and other personal protective equipment.
“To date, we have received none of the requested PPE,” Brown wrote, also addressing the letter to leaders in Congress.
The University of Oregon announced Wednesday that classes this week would continue as scheduled, but all final exams next week will be conducted remotely and future classes would be taught online. Oregon State University announced a similar move.
Portland State University in Multnomah County, where one case was reported on Tuesday, is recommending classes be held online when possible, including for final exams next week, but is stopping short of closing, university spokeswoman Christina Williams said.
“This is a quickly evolving situation, and we are working on day-by-day guidance for our community,” Williams said by email.
Three University of Oregon associate professors who are in northern Italy, one of the epicenters of the outbreak, had written a letter urging the university in Eugene, Oregon, to close and teach online.
“To date, the state and the university have not recognized the seriousness of the situation. There remains only a short window of time to be proactive rather than reactive,” Melissa Graboyes, Alfredo Burlando and Eleonora Redaelli wrote.
They described how Italian universities shifted entirely to online teaching at the beginning of local transmission being detected.
Among the new cases in Oregon, one each occurred in Polk and Deschutes counties, the first time a case has been reported in those places. The two other new cases were in Marion and Umatilla counties.