Dear Friends,

I have been distressed to hear about community members, especially those who are young and healthy, actively ignoring guidance about social distancing. It might feel odd to change your daily patterns especially when school is out, but it is absolutely necessary that we recognize the severity of what lies ahead if we do not take measures to stop the spread of infection.

I recognize and I'm forever grateful for our healthcare professionals, medical support staff, emergency workers, service workers (grocery, food, sanitation, and maintenance) who continue to go to work to support our communities health and wellbeing. If you do not fall into these categories, understand...

This is serious, stay home, stay healthy, save lives.
During this pandemic, it is more important than ever for me, as your legislator, to share accurate information about what we are doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

I will be addressing the main issues we have been receiving from your emails, tweets, and social media messages:

  1. Clarity about why we need social distancing

  2. Our current testing capacity

  3. Guidance and resources that are currently available for all community members

  4. Addressing the economic impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and working Oregonians

We need social distancing to prevent the spread of disease. This will also prevent us from overwhelming our health care system. Graphic created by Stephanie King.
Social Distancing
This is NOT the flu. Our actions have a LARGE impact on how well our community handles this crisis.

Social distancing is not just for people who are elderly or immunocompromised. We ALL need to practice social distancing to ensure we are not spreading this disease. It is our responsibility to prevent the spread of illness that can lead to preventable deaths. 

The Washington Post has helpful visuals illustrating how we CAN prevent the spread of disease by limiting our non-essential outings. 
Extensive social distancing dramatically decreases the spread of disease.  Graphic created by The Washington Post. 
What Does
Social Distancing
Look Like?
  • Work from home, inquire if your job has this option. We realize that this is not an option for many service workers.
  • Wear appropriate protective equipment at work and find ways to minimize being in close contact with others.
  • Use the tapping of elbows or air high fives for greetings.
  • Postpone non-essential meetings, appointments, and outings. Use conference calls or video chatting services whenever possible. 
  • If your kids are out of school, this is not a good time to organize play dates or allow teens to roam the neighborhood in groups.
    • Consider video calling friends, and utilizing distance supplementary learning like - Crazy Aunt Lindsey she teaches kids about science and walks them through at home experiments using common household items. She’s local, and lives in our district, so you’ll be supporting a small business as well. 
  • If family members are out of work, this is not a good time to organize a gathering. Consider calling and video chatting to stay in touch.

We have limited testing capacity in Oregon and across the country. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is providing tests, and private companies like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics are also testing which has significantly increased our testing capability. 

The OHA is still asking that we reserve testing for critical situations and active outbreaks among vulnerable populations, like the outbreak among elderly folks at the Lebanon Veteran’s Home in Linn County. Having tests available in these situations enables them to identify and then localize the threat of spread. 

We know that this issue has been frustrating for health care providers and patients. To be clear, we have not reached the point where anyone who wants a test will be able to get one. However, we have made significant gains and are continuously improving this process. With increased testing capacity, we should expect to see many more confirmed cases.  

What about drive through testing? 

According to the OHA, the primary challenge to implementing this type of testing in Oregon is that the swabs used to collect samples are currently a limited resource we need to conserve. Once this has been resolved, the Oregon Public Health Lab will look into this type of testing again. We will be paying close attention to this issue and will update you with information as soon as we have it. 

What To Do If You Are Sick

  • If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms self-quarantine, you do not need to seek out testing.
  • If you are a member of a vulnerable population, or have contact with vulnerable populations, and need to seek out testing to prevent spread, call your primary care or urgent care facility FIRST and they will advise on next steps, but again, your first step is self-quarantine.
  • DO NOT simply show up at the Emergency Room or primary or urgent care facility asking for testing. If you have the virus, you could put other community members there for other urgent matters in serious danger. 
Pictured are Governor Kate Brown, Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Multnomah County Chair, Deborah Kafoury along with fellow Co-Chairs, holding a joint press conference. 
Guidance & Resources

The State of Oregon, the City of Portland, and Multnomah County have declared an emergency in each of their jurisdictions. Declaring a state of emergency gives them the ability to manage a timely and effective response to COVID-19. Below are some of the updates, guidance, and resources for community members. 

  • All events and gatherings of more than 25 people are cancelled effective March 17th, for the next 4 weeks. Oregonians in high risk categories limit gatherings to 10 or more. 
  • Restaurants and bars are take-out and delivery ONLY for the next 4 weeks.
  • Other businesses are asked to adopt a "take-out style" operation, if they cannot do so, then they are asked to close. 
  • Governor Kate Brown announced today an extension of Oregon’s statewide school closure to a total of six weeks, ending on April 28.
  • Portland Public Schools (PPS), along with other districts, will be providing breakfast and lunch during the closure, link here for PPS schedule of meal distribution times and locations.
  • To find childcare, call 211 or use this search site to find referrals to providers.
  • Major utility companies - PGE General, Pacific Power and NW Natural - will not be shutting off utilities for nonpayment.
  • Unemployment insurance program is expanded to bring relief to more workers.
  • Work Share Oregon helps small business owners provide financial relief to workers with reduced hours. Small businesses owners must initiate the signup.
  • A Convening of the Special Joint Legislative Committee on COVID-19 is scheduled for Wednesday, March 18th. To provide written testimony email
  • Check the Oregon Health Authority website for COVID-19 updates in multiple languages.
  • The Governor's team has compiled a website for Oregonians with information and resources about coronavirus to help Oregonians navigate this unprecedented time. As new developments unfold, they will update this page with the most current information for you and your loved ones with information on health, closures, rules on gatherings, education, workers’ rights, resources for business owners, and more.
  • In conjunction with the moratorium on rental evictions, the County will continue to distribute motel vouchers to vulnerable populations. The County has also prohibited motels and hotels from refusing occupancy to anyone coming from shelters.
  • County libraries are closed. 
  • City employees were deployed to pass out hygiene supplies and distribute information about COVID-19 to houseless community members. 
  •  Student Health Centers are providing free primary care for school-aged youth.
  • Tips for preparing for an emergency plan for pets.
  • Multnomah County Circuit Courts are following a new Chief Justice Order to limit the court to statutorily required proceedings through March 27th.
  • Alongside Multnomah County, the City has enacted a moratorium on rental evictions
  • Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that water and sewer services will not be cut off for non-payment during this crisis.
  • Map of portable restrooms and handwashing stations.
  • The City is assisting shelter providers to keep an additional two winter shelters open.
  • The City is convening an Economic Impact Taskforce with Prosper Portland.
  • Portland Bureau of Transportation will cease ticketing and towing of abandoned vehicles during the state of emergency.
Economic Impact of COVID-19

The health and wellness of all Oregonians comes first. Yet, it is apparent that the COVID-19 epidemic is equal parts health and economic crisis. As a small business owner, I paid $492/month for healthcare and still had a $6,500 deductible. This was an exorbitant cost for me and continues to be an insurmountable burden for so many other Oregonians. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the structural weaknesses of our healthcare and economic systems.

The lack of a social safety net for working people alongside privatized healthcare networks, create an atmosphere where people continue to go to work everyday despite the risk to themselves and their communities. They are motivated by the fear of losing their jobs, losing their livelihoods. The truth is “we are only as safe as the least insured person in [our community].”* If your neighbor does not have insurance or paid sick leave, and can’t access health care,
you too are at risk.  

Our office together with the Legislative POC Caucus, wrote a press release with resources for immediate assistance to working Oregonians. 

In addition, we collaborated with Built Oregon to survey the needs of small businesses. The survey was taken by over 900 small business owners, providing critical insight to create programs to best support them. We are also supporting Business Oregon's efforts to provide resources to small businesses and their employees.

We need a comprehensive economic response that provides meaningful support to small businesses, their employees, freelancers, and hourly workers NOW.

The immediacy of this need cannot be understated, people are being laid off and as of today I've learned of 3 businesses shuttering. 

If you see a need that we or our state government should be addressing, please email our office, and submit written testimony to the Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response, who is convening today for the first time, and will be accepting written testimony at this email address  ( until 5pm. 

The challenges ahead of us are significant.

Fostering a spirit of collaboration, taking care of the needs of our most vulnerable, showing up for each other, flattening the curve, speaking up about the needs of our small businesses and our working class, and moving forward with a full on systems change is how we will recover from this crisis. 

In Solidarity, 

P.S. Please spread any helpful information you find to your networks.  
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Set up a FaceTime or Skype or UberConference or Zoom date with your friends and loved ones, because of course we already know you're staying at home and encouraging them to do the same! 
Copyright © 2020 Representative Lawrence Spence, All rights reserved.

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