Oregon Strengthens Ban on Events, Restaurants

Governor orders events can't exceed 25 people, limits restaurant services and cracks down on price gougers

Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a Monday, March 16 press conference

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced increased social distancing measures to avoid increased transmission of the novel coronavirus in Oregon and to take on price gouging essential items. She made the announcements at afternoon press conference on Monday, March 16.

The order bans events with more than 25 people and limits restaurants to only provide takeout and delivery services; no on-site consumption is allowed in Oregon and offenders could face a Class C misdemeanor if they violate it. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,250.

“In a global pandemic, days are like weeks and every single hour changes. The actions we take today will save lives,” Brown said at the press conference. “Over the past week, we’ve taken action to help flatten the curve of coronavirus transmission in Oregon.”

She added that to save the health and safety of Oregonians, her goals are to decrease transmission rate in Oregon, to preserve hospital capacity for those who need it most and to mitigate the economic impact on everyday people.

Although her ban limits events to 25 people, Brown said she recommends avoiding gatherings with more than 10 people. The order exempts grocery stores, pharmacies, workplaces and retail stores. On Sunday, March 15, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced his intent to enact a social distancing measure to restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities.

Brown’s executive order goes into effect Tuesday, March 17, and lasts for at least four weeks.

At the press conference — among other announcements like Portland-area hospitals collaborating — Brown also said she’s declaring an “abnormal market disruption” to prevent price gouging of essential items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper at the request of Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “Abnormal disruption of the market” means any human-created or natural event or circumstance that causes essential consumer goods or services to be not readily available, according to Oregon law.

Earlier today, Deschutes District Attorney John Hummel said in his own press release earlier today that price gougers, in addition to rotting in hell, would face the full weight and wrath of the law.

According to Oregon law, price gouging is charging 15 percent or more above the amount of a good after the governor declares an abnormal market disruption. The state’s Department of Justice’s hotline to report price gouging is 503-378-8442.

As of 4 pm, there have been 800 tests conducted for the novel coronavirus, 45 of which have been Lane County residents. There are 39 positive tests and one death so far. No cases have been reported in Lane County yet.

“I know Oregonians are some of the most resourceful people in the country, and in times of crisis we come together and support each other,” she said. “Isolation from our friends and neighbors is the only way to flatten the curve of transmission and get Oregon through to the other side.”

 This article was originally published by Eugene Weekly, which like dozens of news organizations throughout the state, is sharing its coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving heath issue.

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