After the OHA identified three presumptive cases of COVID-19 by March 2, Oregon’s first confirmed case was found in Washington County. The patient had no contact with another confirmed case and hadn’t traveled from an area where the virus was circulating, meaning the virus was transmitted through the community.
14 Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon
The state of emergency allowed the governor to direct more state resources towards preventing or ending an emergency situation. According to The Oregonian, the initial executive order allowed the state to create more testing sites for COVID-19, direct more emergency healthcare professionals to where more help is needed and expand remote healthcare services and screenings.
The state agency recommended schools and colleges without any confirmed cases of COVID-19 remain open, and to “consider all alternatives” before making the decision to close.
Portland State reassured the community it was following OHA recommendations, remaining open but monitoring the situation.
Portland: First COVID-19 case in Multnomah County
OHA announced the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Portland, being treated at Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
PSU Interim President Stephen Percy first announced spring term classes would be held remotely on March 11.
“The threat of [COVID-19] is presenting daunting challenges for all of us,” Percy stated in his email announcement to students. “We are committed to making decisions that promote the success and well-being of our campus community and growing concerns across Oregon.”
According to the announcement, after weeks of remote classes, the situation would be re-evaluated in mid-April with the latest information and guidelines from health officials. Coming the week before final exams, faculty members were encouraged to hold exams remotely wherever possible, and encouraged everyone to do the same with community events.
Campus remains open, but all non-essential University-related travel was suspended indefinitely.
PSU announced classes the next day would either be held remotely or canceled. Finals followed suit, changing the university’s recommendation for remote exams into a rule.
OHA announced the state’s first death in Multnomah County, four days after the patient’s initial diagnosis.
39 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 1 death
PSU limited the amount of campus offices open, asking the majority of on-campus employees to work from home. Only employees essential to campus operations, whose work can’t be done remotely, could continue working on campus.
March 20: Spring Break begins
161 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 5 deaths
Brown signed the anticipated stay-at-home order. Dubbed “Stay Home, Save Lives,” the executive order required Oregonians to stay at home “to the maximum extent possible,” as well as maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others. The order also temporarily closed businesses where social distancing is difficult or can’t be maintained.
“I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing…Instead, thousands crowded the beaches of our coastal communities, our trails, our parks, and our city streets, potentially spreading COVID-19 and endangering the lives of others across the state,” Brown stated in the announcement. “Now, I’m ordering it. To save lives and protect our community.”
All non-essential social gatherings, where social distancing can’t be maintained, were canceled. Businesses allowed to remain open were required to implement social distancing measures, and offer remote working options wherever possible.
Oregonians who refuse to comply with the order face a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,250.
PSU canceled in-person commencement ceremonies for all schools, colleges, graduates and undergraduates, and announced virtual commencement ceremonies on June 14 in their stead. However, the initial reaction to the announcement from the community was largely negative. Students took to social media to express their disappointment and questioned why the ceremony couldn’t instead be postponed. A petition to postpone the ceremonies to fall 2020 began circulating shortly after the announcement.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, a $2 trillion economic relief bill-—the largest stimulus bill in the nation’s history—was signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump. The act included stimulus checks for qualifying adults, with the amount depending on their income. College students named as dependents on anyone else’s tax returns do not receive any federal payments under the legislation.
PSU also received $16,640,405 in financial relief from the act.
548 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 13 deaths
March 30: Spring term starts
1,068 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 27 deaths
1,527 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 52 deaths
1,910 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 74 deaths
2,311 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 91 deaths
2,680 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 109 deaths
3,228 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon: 127 deaths
Fall term at PSU
PSU announced on April 29 while fall term courses would be planned assuming they would be in person, the statement released to the campus community stated it is too early to make a definite decision.
On May 7, Brown announced a multi-phase plan to reopen the state slowly, but as early as May 15. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, counties that apply and qualify for the first phase will be able to reopen certain nonessential businesses, as well as once again gather in groups of up to 25 people—granted social distancing measures continue to be followed.
Among the counties applying are Lane County, where the city of Eugene is, and Deschutes County where Bend is, according to Willamette Week. Multnomah County and Washington County are not applying for the first phase yet, but could do so as early as June.