Oregon will stay under the COVID-19 state of emergency in place since March until Nov. 3, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday.
Brown's executive order effectively means that the status quo will remain in place. The first order was issued March 8 and has now been renewed twice. The order allows previous restrictions to stay in place and provides legal backup for actions by the state related to the pandemic.
"Six months after this crisis began, we have made progress," Brown said. "Together, we have slowed the spread of this disease."
Brown said the pandemic is far from under control in Oregon and elsewhere and the extension of the emergency order will ensure continuity of efforts crucial to public health.
The extension will continue the phased reopening of Oregon, and keep in place mandates on businesses, schools, child care and higher education.
The order came as the United States passed six million reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began just before Jan. 1, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There have been more than 184,340 deaths in the United States.
The Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday reported 243 new COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing the total to 26,946. Six new deaths were reported, bringing the state total to 465 since the pandemic began.
Worldwide, there have been 25.5 million reported cases and 852,710 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins report.
Oregon has had a relatively low infection and death rate compared to the rest of the country, but the United States has higher rates than most countries.
While noting progress in the fight against COVID-19, Brown underlined that infection rates were not low enough to allow for in-person instruction at all but a few school districts.
"As students across Oregon begin a school year far different than any other before, it is clear that, at current COVID-19 levels, it will not be safe in much of the state for children to return to in-classroom instruction for months to come.," Brown said.
In her announcement, Brown said the upcoming three-day Labor Day holiday weekend is a "critical moment" in the course of the crisis. After previous long holidays weekends — Memorial Day and July 4th — cases rose as people gathered for celebrations or traveled.
“Small social get-togethers like barbecues and family celebrations have fueled wider community outbreaks in counties across Oregon," Brown said. "This weekend, you have a choice. Please, stay local this Labor Day, and practice safe COVID-19 habits. Wear a face covering, watch your physical distance, and wash your hands."
The extension of the emergency order came a day after the Oregon Republican Party announced it had not gathered enough signatures to submit a recall petition to the Secretary of State. The recall focused largely on Brown's orders "Stay Home, Save Lives" initiative and the closing of businesses that led to over 400,000 new unemployment filings, a backlog that the state Employment Department says it will still need months to clear out.
Brown said the actions were to save lives in a public health emergency.
Brown said only a vaccine will ensure that a semblance of normalcy will return to public life. There are currently 36 vaccines in clinical trials and a total of 90 under various stages of development.
Three vaccines have advanced to Phase 3 of trials needed for approval to use in the United States.
Ten states, mostly in the Midwest and South, are seeing increases in COVID-19 cases, according to a New York Times analysis of local and state public health reports. Fifteen states are showing a drop in cases, including Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, and Nevada.