It was just a little over three weeks ago when Oregon’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed. Since then so much has changed — as of Wednesday morning 209 cases have been detected in Oregon, including eight people who have died — that it’s hard to keep up. And not just with the dizzying spread of the disease but the new rules put in place to try and stop it.
On Monday, Gov. Kate Brown unveiled an executive order designed to get all of us to keep our distance from each other — social distancing — and to do so mostly by requiring us to stay home. There is some teeth to the order — violators will face Class C misdemeanor charges.
Here is what Brown’s so-called “stay-at-home” order means for us.
Do I really have to stay home?
Yes and no. Or put another way, yes but with some notable exceptions. You can still go to work if you must and your employer is allowed to be open. You can also still carry out “essential needs” like buying food and medicine, going to the doctor, and caring for family members and pets. When you do go out for any of these reasons you should keep a 6-foot distance from other people. Additionally, social gatherings, like parties, large picnics or even church services are not allowed under the new rules.
So, must I remain inside?
No, you can (and should) go outside, just do it alone or with your household, and away from other people. Start that spring garden, pick up that brush and easel, work on your car. And you don’t have to stick around the house. It’s OK to go for a walk or bike ride, as long as you do it with your household and stay away from other people, notably places where crowds can gather. And forget about going to the park for a while — most have been closed.
What if I need to drive somewhere. Do I need special paperwork?
No, if you’re driving for a legitimate reason you’re fine. No one in Douglas County is required to have a special permit or paperwork to drive or go to work. Some businesses and agencies are issuing travel letters to employees as a precautionary measure.
What else is closed?
Most everything, really. Restaurants and bars were ordered closed early last week, except for drive-thru and takeout services. Brown’s executive order closed virtually everything else, including: malls and retails complexes; fitness, yoga and dance centers; barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas, cosmetic stores, tattoo parlors; theaters, amusement parks, arcades, bowling alleys, skating rinks, museums; concerts, sporting events, festivals; campgrounds, pools, skate parks, playgrounds.
Other businesses can remain open but they must implement and follow social distancing measures.
What about businesses that don’t necessarily interact with the public?
They can stay open, but they have to implement procedures to protect their employees, mostly by providing adequate space between workers.
Additionally, employers must allow their employees to work remotely if that is possible. If that is not possible, businesses must implement and enforce social distancing rules at the workplace.
What about daycare?
Childcare facilities can remain open if they comply with new guidelines for operation, namely prioritizing their care for children of first responders and health care professionals.
Second, the children in the day care and preschool facilities must be placed into separate groups of 10 or fewer children and not mix with other groups. The children must remain in the same groups each day.
How will all this be enforced?
People violating the order can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor according to ORS 401.990, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and $1,250 fine. However, law enforcement officers have their hands full with serious crimes and understand that it will take time for the public to learn and adjust to the new laws.
When will it end?
No one knows. Gov. Brown’s order is open-ended. But given the current spread of COVID-19 throughout the state — 18 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, including three people who died — the stay-at-home restrictions could be in place for several weeks at least.