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Goveronor Closes Schools; Bans Large Gatherings

More steps to slow spread of coronavirus

3/12/2020, 2:03 p.m.
Oregon should prepare for thousands of cases of coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday as she announced a ban on ...
Gov. Kate Brown issues an order during a press conference with state and local government officials Thursday in Portland to close all schools in the state because of the coronavirus epidemic. On Monday, she went further to limit crowds of 25 people and ordered restaurants and bars to either shut down or serve take-out only. (AP photo)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Thursday evening announced a statewide closure of K-12 schools starting Monday, March 16 and until Tuesday, March 31. It's the latest attempt to slow and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It means a two week spring vacation for Portland Public Schools and other school districts.

The governor’s statement reads:

“Schools are critical institutions that provide important services for all our students, but especially our most vulnerable, and during this crisis I have worked hard to ensure those critical services continue. So many of our families depend on school in order for parents to go to their jobs, and for students to access health care and receive nutrition assistance.”

“However, I have heard from superintendents, school board members, teachers, parents, and students that it has now become impossible to functionally operate schools due to workforce issues and student absences. Schools are experiencing critical shortages in staff, and superintendents are concerned for school personnel who are at elevated risk such as those over age 60 and those with underlying medical issues.

“I want to be very clear: sending Oregon children home will not stop the spread of the coronavirus. While children are home, when at all possible, they should not be in the care of older adults or those with underlying health issues that are most at-risk from COVID-19.

"This is a trying time for our community and I am reluctant to increase the burden on families who are already struggling to adapt to and stay healthy during this crisis. However, we are left with little choice in light of school districts’ staff capacity and operational concerns. I want to thank all of the teachers and school employees who have worked hard to keep our schools open until now. ”Oregon should prepare for thousands of cases of coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday as she announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 250 people statewide for four weeks to try to stop the spread.

Also Thursday, the Oregon Student Athletics Association (OSAA) cancelled the state boys and girls basketball tournament because of the coronavirus. The decision impacts Jefferson High School, the only school from Portland still left in the 5A tournament. Jefferson’s boys team was scheduled to play Thursday night.

Appearing at a news conference in Portland earlier Thursday morning, the governor said she and other state officials are also worried about testing capacity, which a health official put at around only 80 per day, and said “the federal government is the only one who can expand our testing capacity.”

There currently are 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Oregon, though there could be 150 to 250 cases that haven’t been diagnosed, and it could grow to over 75,000 cases by mid-May unless action is taken, state health officer and epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, on Thursday criticized the Trump administration for not responding to Brown’s plea for protective equipment for front-line medical workers.

“Not only has Oregon received none of that equipment, they haven’t even gotten a response. No plan, no urgency, no leadership,” Merkley tweeted.