HOW CAN I HELP?

Effective Wednesday July 1, all Oregonians are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. You can read Governor Brown's press release here.

 

While the face covering mandate is certainly inconvenient, it is not the scary part of Governor Brown's most recent announcement. What terrifies us is her continued threat to shut down businesses.

 

“From the beginning of the reopening process, I have said that reopening comes with the risk of seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases beyond our health systems’ capacity to test, trace, and isolate them,” said Governor Kate Brown. "I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing. If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public."

 

We remember all too well what shutdown meant. Tasting rooms, bars, restaurants, cafes, salons, gyms, spas, yoga studios and other 'non-essential' businesses were singled out to make sacrifices to protect Oregonian's lives. But since reopening began on May 15, the evidence is overwhelming that these kinds of businesses, Governor Brown's "local shops and restaurants" are not contributing to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Oregon.

 

The Oregon Health Authority outlines workplace outbreaks in it's weekly COVID-19 Update (the most recent edition is available here). To date, there have been 3 restaurants that have had workplace outbreaks that meet the criteria to be documented in this data set. However, all three of these cases are in Newport and are directly related to the outbreak at Pacific Seafoods. Details available here.

 

In other words, while 1,132 of Oregon's 7,083 COVID-19 cases (16%) have come from large workplace outbreaks, not a single one of them has come from the businesses that were subject to Governor Brown's shutdown orders.

 

And despite the fact that over 60% of the workplace outbreaks have come from food processing facilities, these businesses are still not subject to mandatory face covering rules.

 

You can read the new statewide face covering mandates here. Incredibly, food processors are not considered a 'Business' under this mandate. While most Oregon Businesses have extensive mandates in their sector guidance documents, food processors have no such requirements-only recommendations (see here).

 

Think about that for a minute. Employees of businesses under threat of another shutdown are required to wear face coverings. Starting July 1, all Oregonians are required to wear face coverings when in an indoor public space. But there is no mandatory face covering rule for the businesses that are the largest source of COVID-19 spread.

 

Prior to each of the major outbreaks at Pacific Seafoods in both Warrenton and Newport, the county health departments in Clatsop and Lincoln counties asked the Oregon Health Authority for mandatory, continuous testing of Pacific Seafood workers and the request was denied. How many fewer cases of COVID would Oregon have if the OHA held food processors to the same standards as the rest of us? Read about it here.

 

Worker conditions at food processors are notoriously horrendous. Workers are often forced to work when sick, and have attendance incentives. Most of these jobs are low wage and overwhelmingly performed by migrant workers and recent immigrants.

 

When it comes to employee safety in the COVID era, it seems that the Oregon Health Authority's official policy is that brown and black lives matter less.

 

If you think it is unacceptable that small businesses that have taken on enormous financial, physical, and emotional burdens to do the right thing and follow the rules may once again be subject to shutdown while in the mean time Oregon turns a blind eye to food processors, churches, and 'essential' businesses who flagrantly flaunt the rules, please send a letter of concern to Charles Boyle, Governor Brown's Deputy Communications Director at Charles.boyle@oregon.gov.

 

Oregon's small businesses should not have to fall on their swords in order to protect the profits of irresponsible corporations.

 

Thank you for helping Oregon's small businesses stay open!

 

-Sean and Chenin