City of Brookings Councilors voted to temporarily ban people from staying in hotels and other commercial lodging, joining many other cities on the Oregon coast that did the same earlier in the week to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Councilors called this a “good first step” and said they would look at adding more restrictions to protect the health and safety of the city’s residents if the need arises.
“Definitely not a decision taken lightly by me,” said Mayor Jake Pieper. “I feel like it is our only option. We are going to take this a day at a time and if the situation calls for it I am ready to go further and do whatever we can to keep people from getting sick.”
The resolution was passed 5-0 Thursday night, March 26, during a special meeting. Councilors met in executive or closed session for 30 minutes and then met for another 30 minutes in open session discussing the matter before voting on it.
The ban of stays less than 30 days at all transient tax lodging facilities, including but not limited to hotels, motels and short-term rentals, begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27 and continues through May 1.
There were some exceptions to the ban such as people in the trucking industry, health care workers, victims of domestic violence, government workers, first responders and other person deemed by the city, county or state to be essential or necessary during the pandemic; people seeking to responsibly quarantine themselves; and residents of the City of Brookings or any residents with a 97415 zip code.
The ban can be extended beyond May 1 by City Manager Janell Howard for up to one additional month as long as the governor’s stay home travel restrictions were also extended.
Councilors passed a temporary state of emergency during their regular meeting on Monday, March 23. At that meeting, they passed a resolution presented by state Rep. David Brock Smith (R-District 1) asking Gov. Kate Brown to essentially do what the council did Thursday night.
They hoped the governor would act but when it appeared she was not they called a special meeting. The City of Brookings received counsel from a lawyer on the resolution.
“Rather than just sit and wait and see what the state, which is kind of what we have done all week now, is wait and see what the state is going to do, we can move ahead on our own with this resolution and then amend it if necessary,” said Councilor Ron Hedenskog during discussion Thursday.
The City of Gold Beach enacted a similar ban this week.
Curry County Commissioners called for a special meeting Friday morning, March 27, to consider a temporary transient lodging ban. Brookings Councilors hoped the county would do so, because as it is now people can still stay in hotels and motels in Harbor, just across the Chetco River Bridge.
“I would agree that we need to lobby the county to shut down the county areas,” Hedenskog said.
As of March 26, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brookings or Curry County but there were 316 confirmed cases in Oregon and 11deaths related to the virus.