Oregon Republicans Push To Reconsider Portland-Area Reopening Strategy

Top Republican lawmakers are asking Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to reconsider her decision to tether Clackamas County to Multnomah and Washington counties as the state eases COVID-19 restrictions in the midst of the pandemic.

“Coupling Clackamas County with the two most urban and densely populated counties in Oregon is unwarranted and unnecessarily burdens our local communities and businesses who are already struggling during this economic downturn,” House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, said in a statement. “The county commissioners have asked for this policy to be reconsidered, and today we echo their plea.”

Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard said he understands the governor’s motives.

“The first case of COVID-19 here was a Washington County resident, I (understand) the tie,” he said. He said he’s worried about his local business because Clackamas County hasn’t received as much federal aid as other counties.

At the same time, the way case numbers are increasing in both the state and Clackamas County, he understands that reopening could be a while off still.

Since the start of the pandemic, 14,149 people have been diagnosed with the cornoavirus statewide, including 1,111 from Clackamas County — and 160 of those Clackamas County diagnoses have been in the past week. Thirty residents of the county have died of COVID-19.

“My guess is next week we’ll be rolling back,” Bernard said.

Thomas Wheatley, a political advisor to Brown, said the governor has articulated why she believes it makes sense to take a regional approach since the COVID-19 virus does not care about jurisdictional boundaries.

“The governor has been very clear given the amount of travel and back-and-forth for work and play among the tri-county area why she is tying the three counties together,” Wheatley said.

Clackamas County’s commissioners came close to asking the governor to take another look at the county’s application to move to Phase 2 of reopening, but on Tuesday they decided to wait instead, according to reporting by the Portland Tribune.

The governor has approved Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties to enter Phase 1, allowing bars and restaurants to resume limited seated service. Gyms and salons have also reopened.

But on Monday, the governor announced announced new statewide restrictions, including a limit of 10 people in indoor social gatherings. Those limits would not apply to businesses or worship services, the governor’s office said. The governor also expanded Oregon’s statewide face mask policy, requiring that most Oregonians wear masks in outdoor situations when they cannot stay six feet from other people.

Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, who like Drazan represents portions of Clackamas County, said in a statement the governor should reconsider her position. 

“Rural Clackamas County shouldn’t have to pay the price for the damages caused by violent anarchists in downtown Portland,” said Senator Girod. “The actions of the larger tri-county area do not represent the Oregonians in the rural part of the county, and the Governor needs to acknowledge this difference.”

The Oregon Health Authority has said it has not seen any evidence connecting protests in Portland to an increase of coronavirus cases

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