SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Hundreds of people opposed to Oregon’s stay-at-home order demonstrated at the state Capitol on Saturday as health officials announced dozens more cases and five additional deaths from COVID-19.
Most of the protesters did not wear face masks, but they waved American flags and Trump campaign signs in the rain. Other signs read “Reopen Oregon” and “Let me earn a living.”
A group of healthcare workers demonstrated at the top of the Capitol steps, urging a phased plan to ease the state’s social distancing requirements. Most of the other protesters ignored them.
Public health officials say stay-at-home orders are essential for slowing the transmission of the novel coronavirus. But protest organizers told The Oregonian/OregonLive that they view the social distancing mandates issued by Gov. Kate Brown as government overreach.
Since mid-March, Brown’s orders have closed many businesses, put some parks and campgrounds off limits, and required public schools to adopt distance learning programs.
“You can’t just place citizens under house arrest and enforce those orders,” event organizer Adam Ellifritt said.
Nods to conspiracy theories and fringe websites peppered the crowd, with one attendee accusing the U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies of preparing a “mass vaccination campaign.”
Though governors generally have broad powers during declared emergencies, speakers claimed Brown lacked the authority to issue orders she laid out in mid-March banning groups of 25 or more from gathering if they could not keep six feet apart at all times and, later, shuttering public schools across the state.
Oregon Health Authority officials reported 57 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 2,635, with five additional deaths, bringing the total toll to 109.
The new deaths were a 64-year-old man from Polk County, two men ages 70 and 75 from Multnomah County, a 91-year-old woman from Marion County and a 76-year-old woman from Umatilla County. Each had underlying medical conditions.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.