Saturday hundreds of protesters in Oregon against Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order meant to curb the spread of coronavirus, joining the ranks of Americans across the country calling to reopen the economy.
Oregon has been under lockdown since March 23, shuttering most businesses and imposing strict social distancing measures. The effective pause on the economy has impacted the livelihoods of many Americans, with 330,000 Oregonians filing for unemployment since mid-March.
Outside the Capitol in Salem, Manulani Lopes told FOX12 Oregon her family was “plowing through our savings” and inquired how they were “going to put food on the table.”
“It is our right to work, we have that right to work,” said Lopes, who lives in Troutdale, a city about 17 miles east of Portland. “Americans are smart. We know how to take care of ourselves and our families. We will take precautions.”
Most of the protesters didn’t wear face masks. Many held signs reading “We Are ALL Essential” and “Reopen Oregon.” Others waved American flags and Trump campaign signs.
A group of health care workers countered with a demonstration at the top of the Capitol steps, urging a phased plan to ease the state’s social distancing requirements, Oregon Live reported.
For over a month, businesses have remained closed under Brown’s orders, with schools adopting distance learning programs, and some parks and campgrounds remaining off-limits.
On Friday, Brown extended Oregon’s state of emergency to July 6, which gives the governor authority to maintain the stay-at-home order, financial stimulus measures, and other orders she’s issued so far, the paper reported. Brown can end the extension earlier if deemed appropriate.
Brown also unveiled new plans for the reopening the state safely by expanding testing and contact tracing to contain any outbreaks before it spreads through the community.
“As we look to reopen Oregon, it’s critical we understand the prevalence of COVID-19 across the state and use science and data to ensure we can safely take steps forward,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a news release.
While it’s unclear when a statewide reopening will happen, certain counties with few or no cases of the virus may present Brown with plans for lifting restrictions and, if approved, could begin to gradually reopen on May 15, according to FOX 12.
Adam Ellifritt, spokesman for Oregon Uniting for Liberty, which organized Saturday’s protest, told Fox News last week that Brown’s virus response is government overreach.
“She’s not following federal guidelines. She’s following her own guidelines,” he said. “I think she has massively failed to a great extent in the state of Oregon, but she was failing prior to coronavirus in the policies that she set up.”
While Ellifritt said he understands the severity of the pandemic and does not expect a return to normal anytime soon, he believes there is a “cautious way forward that’s realistic” for reopening the state.
Oregon reported 57 new coronavirus cases on Saturday for a statewide total of 2,635, while five new deaths brought the death toll to 109, according to state health department data.