SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday extended Oregon's declaration of a state of emergency until Jan. 2 as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 391 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the state total to 42,808. There were nine additional deaths, increasing the death toll to 664.
“Extending the COVID-19 state of emergency is not something I do lightly, but we know all too well that not taking action would mean an even greater loss of life," Brown said. “The second wave of COVID-19 has arrived in the United States, and this time it is hitting all of our communities.”
The declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued, including her orders surrounding reopening Oregon, childcare, schools and higher education operations. Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect.
The governor reviews and reevaluates each of her emergency orders every 60 days, to determine whether those orders should be continued, modified, or rescinded.
“My goal is to keep Oregon on track to open more schools for in-person instruction for our students — and to continue to reopen, and keep open, our businesses, communities, and economies," Brown said. “Oregon is not an island. Without safety precautions in place, we could quickly see our case counts spike as well.”
During October, Oregon has reached grim COVID-19 milestones including surpassing 600 deaths and reaching 40,000 confirmed cases.
On Friday, the health authority reported 550 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the state’s largest daily total since the the start of the pandemic.
Health officials called the number of cases “troubling” and said based on current COVID-19 modeling, if Oregon remains on the path it is now, the state could reach capacity in its hospitals by mid-December.
As of Friday, out of Oregon’s 723 listed intensive care unit beds, 22% are still available, based on data on the Oregon Health Authority’s website. Out of the non-ICU adult hospital beds in the state, 14% are still available.
Officials have attributed the rise in cases to Labor Day gatherings, the return of college students to campus, the interruption of testing during recent wildfires in Oregon and “small clusters” of outbreaks across the state.
State and health officials are already urging people to to avoid Halloween celebrations and rethink their plans for Thanksgiving.
As cases continued to climb this month the health authority again expanded face covering requirements to include all private and public workplaces, including classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, work spaces, outdoor markets, street fairs, private career schools and public and private colleges and universities.
“We must continue to work together and follow the simple steps that have kept us safe throughout this pandemic," Brown said. "Washing our hands, wearing face coverings, watching our physical distance, staying home when sick, and avoiding social get-togethers, especially indoors.”