Brown

Gov. Kate Brown details steps Oregon is taking to limit the spread of COVID-19 at a press conference in Portland on March 12.

Oregon has experienced 690 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since January, as of Tuesday morning.

The 84 new cases announced by the Oregon Health Authority were led by 18 each in Marion and Washington counties.

Washington County has had the most cases, 168, followed by Marion with 123. Eighteen Oregonians have died from the disease, all over the age of 60.

The state reported on Sunday that 140 patients had been hospitalized for COVID-19, but 291 adult ICU beds were available, as were 67 pediatric ICU beds.

In a video posted Saturday, Gov. Kate Brown said the latest modeling shows that Oregon is unlikely to run out of available hospital beds if people practice social distancing.

Passenger traffic at Portland International Airport is down 90%, and ridership on TriMet is down about 80%.

“These are the kind of metrics that indicate we are reducing the transmission of the virus,” Brown said.

Here’s a round-up of other coronavirus news:

• Self-serve gas: Oregon Fire Marshal Jim Walker temporarily suspended the state’s ban on self-serve gas. His office produced a handy flier for service stations to post for customers who don’t know how to fuel their vehicles.

Service stations neither are required to offer self-serve nor, under some circumstances, are they required to have any attendant present.

For years, Oregon and New Jersey have been the only states disallowing self-service, but Oregon gradually has been easing restrictions, especially in rural areas.

Oregon politicians had differing reactions to the news.

“Personally, I think the best solution is to have the customer run their own card and let the attendant pump the gas, thereby limiting the number of different people touching the pump,” Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, wrote in his daily constituent update.

“This is preposterous. Gas pump handles could become breeding grounds for virus,” tweeted Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton.

Consumer Reports offers these tips on self-protection while pumping gas: Consider carrying disposable nitrile or latex gloves to use when gripping the pump handle. Or use paper towels to grip the handle and to touch the keypads. When done, invert the gloves and throw them away, along with any paper towels, etc., that you’ve used. Use hand sanitizer before getting back into the vehicle.

“Cleaning your hands after you’re done seems like the quickest, easiest precaution. But some drivers might want to have disinfectant wipes handy for wiping down the gas pump handle and the payment keypad before pumping,” Consumer Reports said.

• “Stay Home, Stay Alive”: The governor’s social distancing campaign launched Saturday with the Portland-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy producing the ads for free.

They include slogans such as “Don’t accidentally kill someone,” “Keep Portland alive” (instead of “weird”) and “Essential workers, as you stay outside for us, we will stay at home for you. Thank you.”

• Online charter schools: Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Education Department, clarified that online education may continue.

Virtual public charter schools were included in the school closure that Brown ordered through April 28. However, the Education Department also said schools that offered online education, or were capable of doing so, could keep operating if there was no in-person contact.

All Oregon schools have been ordered to provide “supplemental” education — informal or review materials for students — whereas the closed schools in Washington state have been told to resume teaching students, although not in person.

For Oregon online charter schools, it pretty much can be business as usual, Gill said. But they may not enroll new students until Brown reopens schools.

• Trump signs aid: Oregon Rep. Greg Walden joined President Donald Trump at the White House signing ceremony for the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that Congress passed last week.

“I was proud to help write and pass the rescue package and to stand next to the President when he signed it into law,” Walden wrote in a newsletter. “This package is not the first response to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor will it be the last.”

• Getting to Capitol Hill: Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio flew back to Washington, D.C., on Thursday night to vote for passage of the coronavirus response on Friday. He said his Alaska Airlines flight had four passengers with four or five flight attendants.

• Special session: Sen. Dembrow said it was too early to tell when Gov. Brown might convene a special legislative session. State government will receive a hefty amount of money from the congressional aid package.

“Until we have a better understanding of the gaps in the federal legislation, we won’t know exactly what is needed in a special session,” Dembrow wrote in a constituent update. “The Governor is committed to calling us into session only when (a) we know exactly what financial assistance is needed from the state and (b) it is clear that any actions taken are supported by both the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

“Another reason for her reluctance to call us into session is that our state budget outlook is not yet clear.”

Some legislators have said a special session might not be necessary. In a disaster, Brown has widespread authority to move money around in the state budget and to take certain other actions without legislative approval.

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