UMATILLA COUNTY — Pressed by Oregon media about what was and wasn’t covered by her “stay home” executive order, Gov. Kate Brown tried to simplify it down to a single sentence.
“If you cannot telecommute, if you cannot socially distance safely, then you need to shut down,” she said in a teleconference with the media.
Brown’s order is meant to make sure that social distancing is not only encouraged, but legally enforceable, and mandates certain places, like hair salons, gyms and park playgrounds, close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A week after the state closed dine-in restaurants and two weeks after the governor closed schools, local businesses and government officials are trying to adjust to the new requirements.
Cherice Clayton was putting the final touches on Lisa Hagerman’s freshly colored magenta hair on Monday afternoon at Ellig’ance in Hermiston.
Hargerman’s original appointment was Tuesday, but Clayton was able to squeeze her in Monday because come Tuesday, the salon would be closed per the governor’s orders.
“It’s a little scary,” Clayton admitted about closing her salon for an undetermined amount of time. “When you are self-employed, you don’t get unemployment. I’m fortunate my husband works at the prison, so we still have an income. But others don’t.”
Including Clayton, there are five beauticians at the salon, and as many as 40 clients come through the salon on any given day. The salon is open six to seven days a week depending on appointments.
“I worked Sunday because I knew this was coming,” said Clayton, who has been in the business for 38 years.
In Pendleton, it was difficult to find a business affected by the order that hadn’t already elected to close.
Since the order bans both salons and boutiques, Speakeasy Salon & Boutique already had two strikes against it, but owner Katie Jones said the business had been closed since March 17.
Jones said she grew up in Kirkland, Washington, where 35 people have died in a nursing home facility.
“I knew it was coming,” she said. “We are in such close proximity.”
When Jones and the rest of the Speakeasy staff decided to close down shop, she said the salon mostly received support from customers mixed in with some backlash.
“Some people think this is all hype,” she said.
Jones said she feels relieved the state is closing all salons, but she’s going to spend time researching Small Business Administration assistance for the business and the rest of the contractors who work at Speakeasy.
The executive order exempts nonprofits as long as they follow social distancing guidelines, but the Salvation Army is still contracting at a time when its services are in high demand.
Major DeWayne Halstad, the commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Pendleton, works with about four volunteers daily. They served 118 to-go sack lunches on Monday — the most they ever have in a single day.
He said that Gov. Brown’s stay-home order could not only affect the Salvation Army, but also the community they serve.
“It’s going to affect a lot of people struggling for food and essentials,” he said, “especially now that they didn’t pass the stimulus package.”
Halstad said the stay-home order should not affect the distribution of their to-go lunches, as it is deemed an essential service. They handed out 58 sack lunches to the homeless community staying at the Marigold Hotel on Monday afternoon.
“I’m assuming that we’ll still be able to do that,” he said. “We’ll continue with it. We keep everyone separated. All lunches are to go, so they get them and leave.”
The Salvation Army’s thrift store, however, closed on Friday, and Halstad said the business is already feeling the sting of the closure.
“We make between $1,500 and $2,000 a day at the store,” he said. “It’s going to affect our budget. We’ll still have (volunteers) to show up and help us, but there will probably be fewer people — we don’t want to risk anyone’s health.”
After a weekend where people flocked to public beaches and state parks, the governor’s order also shuts down playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor sports courts.
Larry Fetter, director of Hermiston Parks and Recreation, said his department will be posting signs in English and Spanish about the new requirements regarding use of the city’s 12 parks.
“The real goal is to keep social distancing to 6 feet,” he said. “If kids are on the play structures, we’d like them to all be within the same family. It’s a little unenforceable. The goal is to keep people home and limit themselves to essential journeys outside the home.”
Fetter did say the trails would remain open, but again, social distancing is encouraged.
Monday afternoon, the Hermiston School District closed all athletic fields, tracks, tennis courts and elementary school playgrounds to the public.
Shortly after the governor issued her order, Pendleton Parks and Recreation Department Director Liam Hughes said staff posted signs in parks highlighting the prohibited areas and encouraging social distancing in the areas that remain open.
Without the ability to physically barricade every playground, skate park, and court in the city, Hughes said the city will have to rely on people respecting the rules.
One of the people charged with enforcing the new order is Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts.
“The reality is the law is the law, and we’re going to enforce it,” he said.
Roberts said police will spend the coming days educating residents and businesses about the new rules and how to comply with them.
Given how businesses reacted after the dine-in restaurant ban, Roberts expects them to be compliant. Even in the case of the Rainbow Cafe, which made statewide news after its owner opened the historic bar the day after the governor asked bars and restaurants to end on-site consumption, Roberts said the owner shut it down once the executive order officially went into effect.
Roberts said his department wouldn’t waste time trying to figure out which facilities do or don’t qualify under Monday’s executive order, but the department would take steps to make sure the spirit of the law was followed.
In the conference call, Brown said the executive order shouldn’t need to be prioritized over “real emergencies.”
“If businesses do not comply, they will be shut down, and if Oregonians don’t comply, we’ll have to take the next step,” she said. “But I don’t want to do that. Our law enforcement need to be focused on real emergencies across the state.
Reporters Annie Fowler and Brett Kane contributed to this report.