Gov. Kate Brown holds off imposing curfews or closures of bars and restaurants — for now

Gov. Kate Brown announces new state restrictions in a news conference in Portland on Thursday, March 12. (Jonathan House/Pamplin Media)

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Update: This story has been updated to reflect Brown’s decision to not close restaurants and bars.

SALEM – Gov. Kate Brown will not order the closure or curfews of bars and restaurants to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

Governors in California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington have ordered closures in response to their response to the pandemic. But on a press call on Monday, Brown said she would not follow suit after a conference call she was on last night with local elected officials.

“one of the things that I learned was that particularly in our rural communities, restaurants are a key provider of meals to a lot of the elderly and vulnerable folks,” she said. “And we are taking these concerns seriously as we develop policy.” 

On Sunday, Brown indicated that she was considering curfews of restaurants to a “total shutdown.”

One of her concerns, she said, was ensuring that public safety and health care workers “have access to restaurant food over the next several weeks.”

Authorities in Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts have already ordered statewide closures of bars and restaurants. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered closed pubs, bars and wineries but allowed restaurants to remain open if they reduce capacity and enforce social distancing.

Brown said she consulted with medical and health experts and elected officials on a conference call Sunday. She said planned to consult additional elected officials before deciding.

She said that Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer, reminded her that “when people drink in bars, particularly in the later hours, folks forget about social distancing.”

That term generally advises people to be no closer than six feet to avoid coming into contact with someone who is infected. The incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days, meaning that people could be infected for days before suffering symptoms.

“From my perspective, a curfew made a lot of sense” as an option, Brown said.

The governor said she was sharply aware of the economic impact of any decision regarding restaurants and bars, often a key source of jobs in communities across Oregon. They employ an estimated 155,000.

“We’re talking about a lot of very small businesses,” Brown said. “In terms of Oregon’s hospitality industry and small businesses, we’re trying to figure out a way that they can survive through the next several weeks.”

The decision on restaurants will come after Brown has issued a string of directives to limit the exposure of Oregonians to infected individuals and to slow down the spread of COVID-19 before it overwhelms medical and other resources. She has ordered restrictions on visits to the 30,000 Oregonians living in nursing homes and assisted care and residential care facilities and shuttered every school in the state, an order that takes effect Monday, March 16, and idles 580,000 public school students.