Oregon’s hospitality industry calls on state to change public health orders

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Members of Oregon’s hospitality industry say they have had enough with the state’s current pandemic health orders and are calling on Gov. Kate Brown to make a few changes.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association officials wrote that the state’s 10 p.m. curfew and 100 person maximum capacity are unjustified based on recurring COVID-19 weekly workplace outbreak reports from the Oregon Health Authority.

Over the past few weeks, OHA data has shown prisons, nursing homes, fast food joints, and food processing plants as some of the leading hotspots for COVID-19 spikes.

The association is calling on Brown to allow operators to stay open until midnight as well as allow larger venues to expand their indoor capacity regardless of their county’s state-approved phase of reopening.

Only a handful of bars were recommended for citations by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission over the summer.

Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association President and CEO Jason Brandt argued that such allowances are long overdue.

“On the surface we realize a 100-person limitation sounds like an appropriate preventative measure to mitigate virus spread in Oregon,” Brandt said. “However, large scale venues have the ability to provide ample physical distance between associated parties of 10 or less and can accommodate more employees with hours while still operating safe, controlled environments.”

According to Brandt, businesses will need as much foot traffic as possible to cash in on the holiday rush to stay afloat.

“Some of the loudest voices in our industry on the importance of removing the 100-person indoor cap rule are coming from businesses who don’t have space to accommodate over 100,” Brandt. “This showcases the ripple effect that hits smaller businesses when larger venues can’t accommodate larger groups in a community. Without the additional flexibility there is less activity and commerce in local communities and our operators rely on that foot traffic to stay afloat.”

Brown’s office did not immediately respond for comment on ORLA’s demands.

On Tuesday, Brown once again extended Oregon’s state of emergency declaration through January 2, 2021 to COVID-19 pandemic.

“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.”

Per state law, a state of emergency must be extended every 60 days by the governor’s office.

During the week of October 19, the agency reported 2,642 new cases of COVID-19, marking a 14% increase from the previous week and a record-high for the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, 43,228 people in Oregon have contracted COVID-19 and 671 more have died from the virus, according to OHA data.

Brown has argued in past months that easing restrictions for bars and restaurants would only increase case rates across the state.

However, the governor has voiced interest in adjusting the state’s health metrics for reopening public schools as most students learn from home.

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