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People protesting Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's stay-at-home order, imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, drive around the state Capitol in Salem, Ore., Friday, April 17, 2020, where they were greeted by other flag-waving protesters. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)
The Associated Press
Published: 18 April 2020

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Dozens of people protesting Oregon’s stay-at-home order drove around the state Capitol on Friday, horns blaring, and a lawmaker asked the governor to ease restrictions for medical procedures for non-coronavirus patients.

The protest at the Capitol in Salem was one of several happening across the country this week as conservatives push back against virus-related restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

State Rep. Cheri Helt, a moderate Republican from Bend, credited Gov. Brown for imposing the stay-at-home order and social distancing. But she said in a letter it's time to “slowly and carefully begin lifting regulations that have essentially shut down access to health care and medical procedures in Central Oregon for anything unrelated to COVID-19.”

Helt noted that the order has affected the health care industry and patients who must wait for procedures.

Some hospitals in Oregon have seen revenue decline as much as 60 percent in a month, Becky Hultberg, CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said recently.

Brown waiting for decline in active infections

Meanwhile the Oregon Health Authority reported six new COVID-19 deaths Friday for a total of 70 in the state. State officials also reported 49 new cases, increasing to 1,785 the total number of people statewide who have tested positive for the disease.

Organizers said the Salem rally was aimed at getting their constitutional rights back and getting Oregonians back to work, KEZI-TV reported. Brown issued an order for Oregonians to stay home starting March 23 and banned non-essential gatherings and travel after crowds descended on the state’s beach towns and hiking trails the previous weekend.

Brown said earlier this week that she won’t reopen Oregon’s economy or ease restrictions until she sees a declining rate of active virus cases and public health data suggesting a return to normalcy is safe.

Oregonians struggling to pay bills and rent

Also on Friday, Brown signed an executive order to prevent creditors or debt collectors from garnishing federal coronavirus aid bill payments.

“Many Oregonians, through no fault of their own, are struggling to pay their bills, their rent, or even buy essentials like groceries and prescription drugs,” Brown said in a news release.

“These recovery checks were meant to provide relief, not reward debt collection agencies for preying on Oregonians who have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Homes for disabled residents affected

Additionally, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that the coronavirus has so far infected 10 people who live or work in state-funded homes for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The disease has struck one person in 10 separate homes: a foster home for children, three foster homes for adults and six adult group homes, according to data state officials provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The homes are in southern Oregon, with one case each in Jackson and Klamath counties, in the Willamette Valley, with four cases in Marion, Lane and Linn counties, and in the Portland area, with four infected homes in Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties.


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