Tootie Smith, who will start her term as chairperson of the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners in January, posted the following to Facebook Saturday: “My family will celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with as many family and friends as I can find. Gov Brown is WRONG to order otherwise.”
Smith, a Republican, is rebuffing a list of public health restrictions announced by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown Friday, including limiting social gatherings to no more than six people from a maximum of two separate households. The governor said unlike in the first eight months of the pandemic, she is now calling upon police to encourage compliance with her restrictions. That could include by issuing fines of up to $1,250 and jail time if violators don’t comply.
As chairperson of county commissioners starting in January, she will play a significant role in structuring the county’s response to the coronavirus. She said she believes further coronavirus restrictions are more damaging than they’re worth, given the increasing rates of child abuse, domestic violence, depression and suicide that come with them.
Representatives from Brown’s office and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to requests from The Oregonian/OregonLive Sunday asking if they plan to make an example out of Smith, who has clearly drawn a line in the sand.
“Well, I don’t know if there’s going to be a knock at the door,” said Smith of her Nov. 26 gathering. “But I’m going to, in my very private home with my family, continue to celebrate this holiday and Christmas as well.”
Smith said Brown’s restrictions are over the top “and she knows it.”
“I have been in contact with hundreds if not thousands of people who are up in arms about this,” Smith said.
Three of Smith’s Facebook posts on the subject this weekend sparked more than 1,000 comments by Sunday afternoon.
Some viewers enthusiastically supported Smith’s stance.
“Thank you for standing up again(st) this dictator we unfortunately call our Governor,” wrote one support. “We need more Oregonians like you!!”
“Ignore her. Live your life,” wrote another of Smith’s supporters. “She ain’t the boss of us.”
But many commenters condemned Smith’s resistance as dangerous.
“How about listening to science,” wrote one. “Stop being part of the problem.”
“I am a nurse,” wrote another. “Your ignorance in the face of a global pandemic is heartbreaking. You would put your family, friends, community, health care providers, and first responders in harm’s way? … Who raised you? Wolves?”
In issuing her orders, Brown is trying to slow a daunting trajectory in coronavirus cases before the state’s hospitals fill to capacity. New infections have more than doubled and hospitalizations are up 56% in the past two weeks. In Region 1, which includes the entire Portland metro area, intensive care units are 89% full and other hospital beds are at 93% capacity, according to data published by the Oregon Health Authority.
Smith said she can’t speak about Oregon’s hospital capacity, but she believes public safety measures such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet from others, washing hands and staying home when feeling sick are enough.
“The people I will represent are informed, intelligent and educated — citizens of the U.S. and Clackamas County,” Smith said. “ … I believe my citizens and my family can make their own informed decisions and they can maintain their own personal rights.”
Smith served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 2001 to 2005. She also was a Clackamas County commissioner from 2013 to 2017.
Cases in the county set a record — at 558 new infections — in the first week of November, the latest for which data is available. That included a new 14-person outbreak at the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
Smith declined to tell The Oregonian/OregonLive Sunday how many people she plans to host at her home on Thanksgiving but she said it will be more than the six people from multiple households. Smith also said she’ll leave it up to her guests whether they want to wear masks while inside her home. Both the governor and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended wearing masks while not eating.
Smith is 63, in an age group that’s considered high risk for severe complications from the disease. But Smith said she doesn’t believe she’ll get sick because she’s healthy and cautious — and that includes taking her vitamins.
“I don’t have high blood pressure,” Smith said. “I’m not overweight. I’m not diabetic. I don’t have cancer.”
“But I understand that there are people out there who do have those diseases,” she continued. “And they need to be cautious and they need to stay home, if that’s what they choose to do.”
— Aimee Green; firstname.lastname@example.org; @o_aimee
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