I am adding my voice to those of my colleagues in the medical community, as well as many other Oregonians, in support of the immediate issuance of strong and unambiguous statewide gubernatorial order to shelter at home with non-essential closures. Given our current lack of both an effective vaccine or the capacity to conduct widespread testing for the virus, such an order offers the most aggressive intervention action available to prevent, or at least delay, hospital overload. The one common conclusion from virtually all the modeling that has been done on the spread of COVID 19 is that you have to hit it hard and you have to hit it early because of its exponential growth curve. Every day of delay significantly increases the likelihood that we will exceed our hospital capacity sooner, run out of critical supplies sooner and put more Oregonians at dire risk.
Time is of the essence here because there will inevitably be a lag time (likely two weeks) between the issuance of the order and the beginning of its impact on hospitalizations. Dramatically slowing down the spread of the disease through the right order will also give testing capacity time to catch up with demand, giving us another invaluable tool to help manage our response to the pandemic. There are lessons we can learn from other countries like Italy and we should take advantage of them.
Toy stores are open, school is out and kids are crowding to them. Plant nurseries are open and people are flocking to them as well to take advantage of the good weather. We had crowds at our beaches over the weekend. That’s not effective social distancing—clearly what we are doing is not enough and we are running out of time. A series of cascading restrictions rolled out over time is no substitute for a definitive statewide order—nor is a patchwork of city and county orders.
I understand the difficult tradeoffs involved between aggressive steps to slow the spread of COVID 19 in our communities and the impact such steps will have on our economy. That exactly why a statewide ordered must be issued immediately. Acting aggressively now—and acting together as an Oregon community—will save an enormous number of lives, prevent the much greater economic damage that the state would experience COVID 19 spirals out of control, and buy us time to ramp up testing and then put together how we are going to manage COVID 19 on a more targeted and ongoing basis.