In the past few weeks our country has experienced a viral pandemic. Our federal, state, and local governments have taken steps to attempt to minimize and control the spread of COVID-19 through requests for nonessential services to shut down, businesses shutter or alter their services, social distancing, prohibition of group gatherings, and a request to stay home to stay healthy. Today, the United States became the 3rd most infected nation in the world, behind China and Italy. China and Italy are taking extreme measures to protect their citizens and enforcing them. Many of their enforcement actions would fall outside of our constitution without emergency declarations so our government has been looking for our citizens to voluntarily comply.
Unfortunately, so many have failed to follow directions, have engaged in hoarding, and have disregarded the Governor’s request to stay home and / or not gather. They have literally flooded our local communities, used up local resources, and caused a potential increased exposure to the virus.
Sheriff Horton has had several calls with Commissioner Yamamoto and Commissioner Baertlein about the number of visitors in our county despite the encouragement of Governor Brown to remain home. We are very disturbed that this many people made the decision to come to our county, overwhelm our local resources and further endanger our citizens by risking exposure.
We are aware of several conversations between our state representatives and the Governor about this issue but there has not been decisive action taken in Salem as of tonight. Here in Tillamook County we have an emergency board meeting scheduled for 10am on Sunday to discuss our approach. We have learned that USFS, Oregon State Parks, Tillamook County Parks Dept. are making decisions to close campgrounds in the next few days and we expect there to be additional action by the Board of Commissioners during the meeting tomorrow.
Many have heard about the decisions other city and county governments have made to require visitors to vacate in the next 24 hours. This is a very strong move by municipal governments and one that needs to be reviewed closely by our county legal team to consider the liability and ultimately how it will be enforced. Our office does support immediate action to deal with the overwhelming number of visitors in our community, however, We also understand we need to give this close examination and ensure we are not unjustly impinging on an individual’s constitutional rights. It comes down to needing action from our Governor and the Board of Commissioners. We know our BOCC is taking this seriously and will do the right thing for the citizens of Tillamook County.
Because this is an unprecedented health emergency and we are unsure about the long-term impacts to the public and our staff, we are looking at appropriate responses to the situation. Our command staff has been conferring throughout the weekend to determine how we should respond and to what level. Tomorrow after the BOCC emergency meeting we should have better direction and will develop a tactical plan on how we should respond.