The State of Oregon’s COVID-19 Response

A first hand snapshot here of the response of Oregon to COVID-19 outbreak as of October 30, 2020

By Susan M. Severance, MPH

Forward Channel LLC

The State of Oregon’s COVID-19 Response


My home is in the Portland metropolitan area of Oregon in The United States. Oregon has a diverse landscape from the coast of the Pacific ocean to the mountains to the high deserts in the East.


Like almost everywhere we have been dealing with COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority is the state agency in charge of the response to the pandemic. The Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provide guidance that the state of Oregon has embraced since the beginning of the outbreak. The available information has been evolving as we learn more about the virus and how it presents. New knowledge impacts the responses in the communities.

The status of COVID-19 is at an all record high for cases and deaths in most of the states, and Oregon is no exception. The states have varied in their responses to COVID-19. Oregon is largely Democratic and has followed the CDC guidelines. The approach in Oregon has been conservative with requiring face masks and limiting restaurant activity and gatherings of people in the community. I have family in Atlanta, Georgia, and lived there for eight years. I even had a volunteer internship at the CDC. I worked on campylobacter and studied the different species of this bacteria. The college I went to was close by at Emory University. I also worked at the children’s hospital also close by walking distance for me from my dorm room. I had an interest in public health early on, which eventually led me to study and obtain my masters in public health at Boston University.

Georgia is largely Republican and has consistently been less conservative in the state’s response to COVID-19. Only recently have they required wearing masks indoors and in the workplace. Also, churches there have held scaled down services where my church in Oregon has been online since early on and will continue to be through the end of the year including virtual Christmas services.

On March 8, 2020, Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency to address the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon. Here are the cumulative COVID-19 numbers to date for Oregon. There are 43,793 total cases, 41,565 positive test results, and 805,002 negative test results. Total deaths are at 673 for the state of Oregon. We have statewide mask, face covering, and face shield guidance. We also have statewide gatherings, indoor social get-together guidance. There is also guidance on re-opening for employers. Oregon has a three-phase re-opening program. Republicans have repeatedly challenged the mandates – not laws – and have lost in court every time in Oregon. Fines are being issued for violations. In comparison, the state of Washington that borders Oregon to the North has 110,748 confirmed cases and 2,463 deaths. The United States has 9,043,390 confirmed cases total and 232,194 deaths to date. The global numbers are 45,179,529 cases and 1,183,213 deaths.

My volunteer activities in the community have also been affected by COVID-19. My volunteering at a local senior community has been on hold. My volunteering at a local Federal wildlife refuge as a naturalist has been on hold. There have been some Zoom calls for volunteers, and they recently announced some remote volunteer activities for us. These social distancing measures in the community have impacted lots of people in their day-to-day life and in their plans in the community. My position on my homeowners’ board has continued through the pandemic. We meet outside and space apart wearing masks. There are five homeowners on the board, and we all have continued to contribute remotely as well as in person at our outdoor meetings.

Oregon is remaining vigilant against COVID-19 and news here includes expectations that we will remain in the fighting mode through the end of the year into next year. Most schools are operating remotely. I see a lot of restaurants in the neighborhood have added outdoor seating and even closed down some streets to traffic so they could set up outdoor seating. I am still not comfortable eating at a restaurant, but I do get take out. My friends here are all working from home. I have been spending time outdoors with friends on walks and birding in the area. I plan to continue the outdoor activities and dress for the winter weather as we head towards it. We have a highly charged presidential election, and the country is divided by it. We shall see what early November brings. COVID-19 is here now and will remain after the election is over and the next president is sworn in. Overall, I am supportive of the measures taken by Oregon in response to COVID-19.