A Second Wave Rolls In, Oregon Freezes.

Tazwell Brandabur

The Charter News

Updated Thursday, Nov 30th, 2020.

It’s beginning to look a lot like… March 2020. 

COVID-19 case numbers are breaking records, the vaccine is scheduled to arrive at some shadowy future date known as ‘soon,’ and any semblance of normalcy is floating beneath an uncertain limbo of guidelines and restrictions. In some respects, not a lot has changed in 8 months of quarantine. 

There are, however, some important differences: COVID-19 in Oregon is speeding along at fifteen times the pace it was in March, and the current surge marks the dawning of the storied second wave– a surge bolstered by the oncoming flu season, financial pressure to reopen, and the grinding down of public obedience to stay-at-home mandates and social distancing guidelines. 

Statistics courtesy Oregon Live, Original Graphic Courtesy BillSey55, Creative Commons. Updated November 17th.

Most of Oregon has technically exited the ‘freeze’ order instituted by Oregon Government, but case numbers are still on a steep rise. Most of the state, according to Oregon Live, will remain functionally frozen under a ‘extreme risk’ policy. At present, only Multnomah county falls under this designation, but almost all other counties are on the edge of qualifying.

Oregon’s current restrictions:

  • Social gatherings of any kind are heavily discouraged. Groups with non-family members must include 6 people or fewer, from, at most, two households. 
  • Religious services and funerals are encouraged to postpone if possible, but may continue with small groups, if all attendees adhere to social distancing guidelines. 
  • There’s a hard pause on indoor visits to long-term care facilities, indoor dining, use of gyms, public gardens, and other entertainment venues. Outdoor sit-down dining is now allowed on a limited basis in counties under the ‘extreme risk’ protocol.
  • Businesses must facilitate and encourage remote work whenever possible.

Read the full text of the freeze order here.

Oregon also enacted a Travel advisory, along with Washington and California– a mandated 14 day quarantine for anyone traveling in or out of state. 

Violations of these guidelines are classed as a class-C misdemeanor. Those found in violation can be arrested and/or fined. 

The Freeze, in many ways similar to the original ‘stay at home, save lives’ protocol enacted early in the pandemic, is significantly more relaxed in several areas. 

Hair salons, barber shops, childcare services, and high-tier sports training (Beavers, Ducks, etc) will remain operational with little to no changes, as Governor Brown noted in a Nov. 13th press briefing, evidence does not suggest these activities have been contributing to the surge. 

“Recent high case rates are not linked to any specific outbreaks,” Brown said, “but rather reflective of sporadic community spread.” In other words, the second wave sources predominately from smaller social gatherings, as opposed to schools, sports, or workplaces.

State Epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger, in the same Nov. 13th press release, listed several recent gatherings that have contributed measurably to the state’s total: a halloween party with ten new infections resulting, for instance. Sidelinger noted this initial event snowballed to 25 additional cases. “What’s causing this spread?” Sidelinger summarized, “Two words: Social gatherings.” 

“What’s causing this spread? Two Words: Social Gatherings.”

Oregons’ daily case count has historically stayed low. During the peak of the first wave, neighboring states with comparable populations had pushed at 1000 new cases per day. California at several points passed 10,000. Until October 23rd, Oregon had never seen more than 500 cases within 24 hours (Oregon Live). 

In response to the initial October case spike, Governor Brown began ramping up containment measures, beginning on November 6th, with a two-week ‘Pause.’ The Pause reinforced existing limits on social gatherings, ramped down in-house dining, religious gatherings, and other indoor events in Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Jackson, and Umatilla counties. Case counts in five additional counties triggered similar measures three days later.

By November 12th, the state broke into the quadruple digits, with 1,109 new cases reported. 

Following two more days of historically high case counts, Brown signed a ‘freeze’ order, (Executive Order 20-65) scheduled to last between two and four weeks in most areas, which aimed to combat the rising case numbers and dwindling hospital beds November has brought the state. 

Sidelinger compared the virus as it stands to a forest fire. “Think of this Freeze like a fire break, that crews dig to slow a wildfire– these temporary limitations on our normal social, commercial, and recreational activities deprive COVID-19 of the fuel it needs to spread.” 

Most of the state is scheduled to re-evaluate two weeks after the latest restrictions take effect (December 2nd), but, Sidelinger noted, “In some areas, the fire [the virus] is burning even hotter, and we may need a wider fire break”– meaning longer restrictions. 

Brown mentioned that Multnomah County, and other known hotspots, may remain under the freeze order for a month or more. 


Billsey55, “Oregon COVID Trends Chart.” Via Wikimedia Commons. Nov. 13. 2020. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_COVID-19_trands_chart.png. Accessed 26 Nov. 2020. 

Borrud, Hillary. “Multnomah County to exit COVID-19 ‘freeze’ Thursday, enter ‘extreme risk’ category.” Oregon Live. 28 Nov. 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2020/11/multnomah-county-to-exit-covid-19-freeze-thursday-enter-extreme-risk-category.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CDC Covid Data Tracker.” https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#compare-trends_newcases. Accessed 23 Nov. 2020. 

Cline, Sarah. “Oregon officials announce new COVID-19 restrictions.” AP News. 6 Nov. 2020. https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-oregon-restaurants-91249b089e7f1a5ec90754c6fb2052cc. Accessed 10 Nov. 2020. 

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Oregon Public Health Division. “Press Briefing with Gov. Kate Brown.” 13 Nov. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_et0zYftCsw&feature=emb_title. Accessed 14 Nov. 2020.

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“Oregon Covid Map and Case Count.” The New York Times. Updated daily as of 23 Nov. 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oregon-coronavirus-cases.html. Accessed 23 Nov. 2020. 

Oregon Office of the Governor. “Executive Order 20-65. Temporary Freeze to Address Surge in COVID-19 Cases in Oregon.” 17 Nov. 2020.  https://www.oregon.gov/gov/admin/Pages/eo_20-65.aspx. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020. 

Oregon Health Authority. “Novel Coronavirus Interim Investigative Guidelines.” 18 Sept. 2020. https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/COMMUNICABLEDISEASE/REPORTINGCOMMUNICABLEDISEASE/REPORTINGGUIDELINES/Documents/Novel-Coronavirus-2019.pdf. Accessed 14 Nov. 2020.

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Thomas, Katie, and Drucker, Jesse. “When Will You Be Able to Get a Coronavirus Vaccine?” The New York Times. 14 Nov. 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/17/health/covid-vaccine-when-available.html. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.