May 14, 2020

Chair Deborah Kafoury says the County will proceed with caution when restarting public life amid COVID-19
Nearly eight weeks ago, the governor of Oregon issued an historic stay-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Most of us haven’t experienced a disruption to daily life like this in our lifetimes. I want to thank everyone who stayed home so our community could keep the virus from spreading. I am especially grateful to those who filled essential roles in public health, grocery stores and health and human services to care for others. 

You made a life-saving difference.

People are anxious to reopen businesses and resume activities. They’re asking, “When are we getting back to normal?”

The reality is, until we have a widely available vaccine for COVID-19, we are not going back to normal.

Even as the state lifts restrictions, and Multnomah County’s sectors gradually reopen, COVID-19 is still a highly contagious and deadly virus that we’ve been able to slow only through physical distancing. 

We are all going to have to adapt our daily lives, expectations, habits, and routines for the foreseeable future. And we’re going to have to be vigilant about where the disease is moving in the community and be ready to adjust. 

We must assure that people of color who disproportionately work in public-facing jobs, live in multigenerational households and are in communities with high rates of chronic disease due to lack of healthcare, have equitable access to testing, primary care and support if they become ill and must isolate. We must assure that people in long-term care, corrections and shelter settings receive the care, information and intervention to stay safe.

If we open too much, too fast, this virus will only continue to deepen already unacceptable health inequities, and overwhelm the healthcare system. As of May 14, we’ve already lost 55 people in this county and 940 people have become sick. And we know that count captures those who tested positive, but not necessarily all those who have contracted the virus. My sympathies go out to the families of those who have become ill and suffered loss as a result of this pandemic. 

My goal remains to use every tool we can to minimize severe illness, death and the widespread impacts of this virus on our community.

And I am committed to helping our County transition fairly and responsibly, and based on the best public health guidance. Thank you for helping us open with care.