Happy (?) Monday,
Governor Kate Brown has issued, yesterday and today, sweeping business and social distancing regulations in reaction to the coronavirus. Since a lot of you BBRers are businessfolk, I thought you might appreciate a quick rundown.
Residential Landlords: The Governor yesterday issued an executive order preventing law enforcement officers from serving any notice or otherwise facilitating the eviction of a residential tenant due to non-payment of rent. Basically, this means that if you want to evict a residential tenant and he or she resists, you’re stuck with ’em because a sheriff’s deputy won’t go out and remove them. The order is in effect for 90 days unless earlier terminated or extended.
The executive order does not impact the tenant’s obligation to pay rent, so theoretically landlords could pursue eviction for non-payment and/or sue for unpaid rent once the order is lifted. Also, the order does not prevent law enforcement officers from serving and otherwise facilitating evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, so landlords may continue to evict for other violations of the rental agreement or Oregon law by tenants.
“Non-Essential Businesses” Forced to Close: In a separate executive order issued today, Brown ordered the closure, effective midnight tonight, the closure of certain specific consumer-facing retail and service businesses:
Art galleries, which are open without appointment
Childcare facilities that cannot limit children to 10 who are the same every day. Order is in place from March 25 through April 28.
Fraternal organizations facilities
Gyms and fitness studios
Hair salons and barber shops
Indoor party places, including jumping gyms and laser tag
Jewelry shops and boutiques, unless they use pick-up or delivery services
Malls, both indoor and outdoor
Medical and facial spas, day spas and massage therapy services
Nail and tanning salons
Non-tribal card rooms
Outdoor sports courts
Private and public campgrounds
Senior activity centers
Social and private clubs
State executive branch offices and buildings “shall close to the maximum extent possible”
Tattoo and piercing parlors
Retail Businesses not listed above: They must designate a Social Distancing Czar (my term, not hers) to ensure that everyone stays six feet apart and otherwise follow the Oregon Health Authority’s social distancing rules (which I would link to except the State of Oregon’s website is not so conveniently down). If they can’t comply with the rules, they need to close down. Grocery stores, health care, medical and pharmacy services are not subject to this rule, but are encouraged to follow social distancing rules.
Restaurants and Bars: They are unaffected by the new order – they continue to be closed to in-house dining but may provide carryout and delivery.
Everything else: All the businesses and nonprofits (and basically all business offices) not listed above may remain open. Office businesses must have employees work remotely to the extent possible. If remote working is not possible for all employees, then the business must designate a Social Distancing Czar.
Travel Restrictions: In an oddly worded section, the order provides, “Individuals are directed to minimize travel, other than essential travel from a home, residence or workplace; for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services” etc. I’m not sure the language of the order is as strict as the Governor is making it out to be, but the intent is clearly to restrict travel by Oregonians.
Impact: The biggest impact will be on the long list of businesses that are forced to close completely. Some of those may have already closed voluntarily, but others, for example salons, likely had not. The closure will lead to another round of layoffs as we’ve seen with restaurants and bars. Many businesses (like mine) will be allowed to continue because I can, in theory, work from home as I am right now. All retail, even those not closed, will probably suffer even more as the travel restrictions at least strongly discourage Oregonians from non-essential trips.
Is it worth it?: The fact is we don’t know. In the Governor’s press release, she says the intent of the new measures is to “flatten the curve,” and prevent the caseload from swamping hospital capacity and ultimately to save lives. That’s a goal that we can all get behind, but as the economic toll of these increasingly restrictive measures increases, the Governor must be more specific about key issues like the following:
– Using some publicly available metric such as positive CoVid-19 test results, what is the goal of these new measures? For example, is the goal to see a reduction in new daily cases by a date certain? Oregonians, and I would think policymakers, need to have some way to determine whether the measures are having their intended effect, because we know that the side-effects are horrendous.
– What was the goal of the earlier measures like the social distancing guidelines and bar/restaurant restrictions? Those measures presumably have been deemed inadequate but on what basis? What would success have looked like?
– How, in reference to a publicly available metric, will we know when the measures have either succeeded in their goal or failed, so that we can move on to fewer or different measures that are more effective?
Given the unprecedented interruption in personal and economic life being enacted by the Governor, it’s critical that we be able to judge the efficacy of those measures. The Governor is in a terribly difficult situation, making very hard decisions – it would help the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians whose lives have been turned upside down understand why that is if there are clear goals and measurements for success or failure.