Some GOP politicians push back on OR governor’s restrictions

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Several Republican politicians and other officials were pushing back against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s orders to stem the spread of the coronavirus, even as Oregon reported on Thursday the highest daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Under Brown’s order, all restaurants and bars are closed except for takeout and public places such as gyms and museums are also temporarily closed. Social gatherings are limited to no more than six people from two households, both inside and outside.

State Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, decried Brown’s actions on Thursday as an attack on Thanksgiving and personal freedoms.

“Now is the time to fight against Gov. Kate Brown’s government overreach and fear-mongering strategy to control this holiday and further destroy the fabric of our society,” Linthicum said in a statement emailed by the communications director for the Senate Republican caucus.

“We have the freedom to celebrate this holiday as we please,” Linthicum said. “I refuse to give Governor Brown the power to take away my freedom. “

The governor’s office and Sen. Fred Girod, the Republican leader in the Senate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sheriff and the district attorney of Linn County, in west-central Oregon, said they “understand the realities of COVID-19, but we draw the line when we are dealing with decisions relating to individual residences, religion, or businesses.”

“We are going to continue to educate citizens, as needed, and that is where we will stop. We trust citizens to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate given their individual circumstances,” District Attorney Doug Marteeny and Sheriff Jim Yon wrote.

One health club chain, in the state capital of Salem, said it was ignoring Brown’s order.

A newly elected county official in Portland’s suburbs this week also lashed out at Brown’s restrictions.

Chair-elect of Clackamas County Tootie Smith, appearing on Fox News, said: “We do not need to be treated as second-rate slaves in our own homes.”

The TV interview followed a tweet in which the Republican said she would celebrate Thanksgiving ”with as many family and friends as I can find.”

The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported 1,225 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and 20 additional deaths. So far, 808 people are known to have died in Oregon since the pandemic began.

Brown on Wednesday, the day her two-week “freeze” on activities took effect, said on Twitter that she is concerned the state’s hospitals would be overwhelmed if she didn’t take action.

“If COVID-19 overwhelms our hospitals, there won’t be enough doctors, nurses, health care workers, or beds if you or a loved one need care. We can’t let that happen,” Brown said.

Kevin Mealy, spokesman for the Oregon Nurses Association, said the public should take heed that health care workers are already stretched to the limit, and should take precautions like wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping social distances.

“In addition to the challenges of working on the front lines of a pandemic, nurses are also confronting the same challenges everyone in their community does ... and they’re just exhausted,” Mealy said.