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Community Action to Mitigate COVID-19 Outbreak

Proposed by Mayoral Candidate Sarah Iannarone on March 10th, 2020

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In early March after briefings from experts in virology, epidemiology, health care, small business and homelessness services, Sarah called on the Portland Mayor’s office to immediately declare a citywide policy of social distancing paired with self-imposed quarantine of ill Portlanders alongside the necessary financial and policy supports and partnerships to better protect the people in our community who are most vulnerable to the looming Coronavirus outbreak: elders; renters; people without housing; and small business owners, their employees, and other vulnerable low- and moderate-wage hourly workers, especially in the service industry.

She understood early on that Coronavirus cannot be controlled; mitigation is our only alternative, especially in Portland where the Federal government has abandoned us and the State of Oregon has dragged its feet in issuing the critical policies we need to keep our people healthy-- physically and financially.

Given the insufficient number of both COVID-19 test kits and ICU beds in our city, Portlanders need to execute a rigorous shelter-in-place model regardless of what happens at higher levels of government if we hope to minimize the duration and severity of the outbreak and impacts on the public health and economy of a place.

"This is a scary outbreak that is going to push us out of our comfort zones," Iannarone commented in a statement to local media. "I have campaigned on the premise that Portlanders have everything we need to address our most pressing problems when we defy the status quo, sidestep bureaucratic red tape, and operate from a model of community resiliency. There are far more questions than answers at this time; however, if we take strong measures now, we may be able to reduce disruption to people’s lives and blunt the impact for our community as the virus runs its course. In the face of our current crisis, our city government must act with clarity, urgency, and creativity."

Sunday, March 8, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared via executive order a sixty (60) day State of Emergency surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19 in Oregon to “swiftly deploy the personnel and resources” needed to combat the virus. Then she waited FIFTEEN ADDITIONAL DAYS before issuing an insufficient shelter-in-place order which leaves far too many businesses open and fails to provide the necessary supports to ensure the needs of Portlanders are being met for the duration of the outbreak in our city.

Sarah recognizes that a rigorous citywide policy of social distancing paired with self-imposed quarantine of ill Portlanders comes with short term costs, but the savings in the long term will be worth it. If mayor at this critical time, Sarah would be focused on ensuring the City of Portland was working effectively with our neighbors across the region and other levels of government while deploying the necessary staff and resources to support our residents in innovating solutions and helping each other get through this.

For this strategy to succeed, Sarah feels the City of Portland must provide the following community supports for the duration of the Governor’s State of Emergency:

  1. Foremost, the City must adopt a rapid response team approach to deal with the level of uncertainty and rapid pace of development as this crisis unfolds. This will ensure our policies, resource allocation, and communication models are effective and efficient.
  2. We must keep the public informed and be transparent about why certain measures are being implemented. This includes providing individuals and businesses with information that is reliable, accessible, and frequent.
  3. Ensure emergency financial support for small business owners, their employees, and other vulnerable low- and moderate-wage hourly workers (especially in the service industry) affected by social distancing policies. Help may come from a variety of sources (including zero-interest peer-to-peer lending) but the coordinating effort should be resourced by the City and led by the small business community, organized labor unions and other worker organizations.
  4. Declare a moratorium on evictions. Many Portlanders will become financially burdened because of the economic impacts of COVID-19. Evictions will place more people outside of their self-quarantine and make the entire community more susceptible to contraction. Affected Portlanders would be required to notify their landlords of their inability to pay before their rent is due.
  5. Declare a moratorium on involuntary displacement and criminalization of unhoused Portlanders (aka “sweeps”). Mass shelters could be a death sentence in an epidemic and displacing people from location to location makes life difficult for the people experiencing homelessness and their service providers. Access to clean, fresh air for people experiencing this respiratory illness can actually be beneficial. As neighbors, we should welcome people without housing to situate themselves in highly treed areas off transit corridors, out from beneath freeways, and away from polluted industrial areas when possible.
  6. Deploy emergency community health measures to assist people without access to housing surviving outdoors. This includes hand-washing stations, personal latrines with pick-up service, wellness checks, food delivery, first-aid, medicine delivery, and other personal safety assistance as needed. This effort can be undertaken in partnership with Multnomah County as well as through direct funding and other institutional support to a diverse network of grassroots and peer support organizations already operating on our streets who are deeply familiar with the locations and needs of our neighbors without housing.
  7. Ensure that Portlanders in quarantine (in housing and unhoused) are having their daily needs met. At this critical time, we must intentionally mobilize the City’s civic capacity, formal and informal, including Neighborhood Emergency Teams and Neighborhood Association networks, to conduct outreach, provide training and information, help with wellness checks, and assist with distributing food and supplies.
  8. Fully and actively enforce hate crimes legislation and Sanctuary City policies. Reports of heightened stigmatization and discrimination in response to the outbreak of coronavirus require that we actively safeguard Portlanders of Asian descent as well as our immigrant and refugee community members. Further, we must instruct all City officials and employees to speak out against negative behaviors (including negative statements on social media) about groups of people, and prevent the exclusion of people from healthcare, information, housing, or financial assistance.