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Community Action to Mitigate COVID-19 Outbreak

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

COVID-19 updates and emergency resources can be found online at Oregon Health Authority.

Today I am calling for a renewed stay-at-home order due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If this order does not come from the state level, the City of Portland should issue a shutdown and direct City bureaus and contractors not to engage in work that is not in compliance.

Local experts looking at objective data and criteria are echoing the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) warnings this week that the worst is yet to come. Willamette Week yesterday reported a lack of progress in combating the spread. We are in a similar position to four months ago when Governor Brown issued the first stay-at-home order. Since then, elected officials have not gone far enough to protect our workers, small businesses, and essential employees. The Trump Administration made reopening a higher priority than health and human safety, directing states and cities in turn to reopen, and this mistake has made our country the global leader in COVID deaths. As a consequence, we will not return to normal any time soon. Teachers unions are voting to avoid returning to schools because our schools are not hospitals and our students are not test subjects. Healthcare workers are begging political leadership to take this pandemic seriously because we face a shortage of hospital beds. Small businesses are opening with high risk and low return because many customers remain rightly afraid of spreading or contracting the illness. We need to show respect for the frontlines of this crisis by immediately halting this misguided reopening.

Responsible COVID policy must center scientific evidence and keep people’s basic needs met while they are kept safe, secure, and socially distant.

Reopening was rightly seen as an unscientific and profit-driven demand when it was made in March. The rapid spread of COVID makes this no less true in July. We cannot continue to allow COVID numbers to rise out of a misguided attempt to improve the stock market. People are dying, particularly people of color in Oregon, and people in rural counties. BIPOC communities experience COVID on top of the public health crisis of systemic racism. I founded a small business that was shuttered due to COVID, so I am acutely aware of the pain this crisis is causing our entrepreneurs. But I ask: how many of our employees are we willing to sacrifice so that we can go about business as usual? We can rebuild once the virus is contained, and with the support of a state and local government that recognize the danger in premature reopening. We can never replace even a single human life lost because we took our focus away from preserving health.

I understand that this may be an unpopular demand, and that many of us are experiencing hardship. But I believe in Portland’s resilience. Individual economic security must never come at the expense of another’s life. Reopening while the outbreak is at its worst levels to date is a deadly mistake, no matter what science-denying business interests and politicians think.

I am directing my campaign to resume our initial COVID response protocols. Thousands of you have reached out to donate, hundreds more want to volunteer. We have an organizing team ready to help meet critical demands, and encourage mutual aid networks and resource pools like the Oregon Workers Relief Fund to renew our focus on helping our neighbors in need. We are ensuring this campaign leads to smarter policy, grounded in reality, and not just the desires of big businesses to return to normal.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

In these times, we need to stay connected to our community, even while social distancing. We need good neighbors now more than ever. Introduce yourself to your neighbors using our “Hello, Neighbor!” card.

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.