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For the next four weeks, all large gatherings over 250 people are canceled statewide, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday night.

The decision comes after 21 people have tested positive for novel coronavirus, the most recent two cases involving residents at a veterans home in Lebanon.

Gov. Brown announced Wednesday the new rules to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon. The following measures are based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon public health experts, epidemiologists, and health professionals.

Brown will address the strategies at a press conference at 9 a.m. today in Portland, including:

1. Large gatherings: All large gatherings over 250 people will be canceled statewide effective immediately for four weeks. A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which appropriate social distancing of a minimum of three feet cannot be maintained.

2. Schools: In addition to previous guidance issued on March 8, 2020, to keep schools open, all non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities should be canceled — such as group parent meetings, field trips, and competitions.

3. Workplace: Recommended implementation of distancing measures including increased physical space between employees in offices and worksites, limited in-person meetings, limited travel, and staggered work schedules where possible.

4. Long-Term Care and Assisted Living: Strict limitations announced this week by the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Human Services remain in place.

As the number of positive cases increases across Oregon, public health resources will be directed toward implementing the guidelines and policies in this statewide mitigation plan, and reducing focus on aggressive contact follow-up on each individual positive case.

“Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone," said Brown. “We can't let fear and anxiety stigmatize people. We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups, and in people exposed through different circumstances. It's time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another."

Brown submitted an updated request to Vice President Pence Wednesday outlining Oregon’s urgent needs from the federal government to support coronavirus response efforts in Oregon, as well as anticipated needs moving forward.

The Oregon Health Authority announced new steps to expand access to COVID-19 testing. State epidemiologists have updated COVID-19 testing guidelines to emphasize that outpatient clinicians can order a test for the virus from a commercial laboratory, at their discretion, without OHA authorization. In addition, the procedure for collecting a COVID-19 sample is no longer classified as a high-risk, airborne testing process, requiring N95 masks. Under the recommendations, health care providers will only be required to wear a regular mask, gown, gloves, and eye protections, making the procedure for safely collecting samples simpler to administer for health care workers and easier to obtain for patients.

Finally, state health officials announced that they have agreements with five hospital systems to conduct COVID-19 testing. State health officials and hospital administrators urged anyone considering a COVID-19 test to consult with their health care provider before seeking a test at a local clinic or hospital.

Brown held a press conference at 9 a.m. Thursday in which she discussed these rules and the importance of social distancing.

In response to Brown’s announcement, Friends of Music has canceled its Sunday, March 15 concert with the Jasper String Quartet.

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