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Mayor's Message - March 21, 2020

A Message from Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 21, 2020

We have all been watching COVID-19 spread abroad and in our own country for weeks. I want all to know that Clatsop County Public Health and Emergency Management have been closely coordinating on a continuous basis with our local hospitals and Oregon Health Authority to plan and prepare for the virus to spread here.  While our local medical professionals become more ready each day, it is imperative that each of us do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus by practicing conscientious social distancing, staying home except for essential business, continuing to wash our hands regularly and avoiding touching our faces. 

Adding to the mental stress of this worry and anticipation, the business and school closures ordered earlier this week have caused real distress to those many neighbors who have been or may be about to be laid off, as well as the hard working business owners whose livelihoods are now in question. 

Many of you have urgent concerns about making the rent, mortgage, auto loan, utility and other payments coming due in a period of reduced or no revenue. Along with every other Mayor in Oregon, I have been regularly conveying the urgent need for unemployment and business assistance to our legislators in Salem, as has the Astoria Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, Clatsop Economic Development Resources and many others.  

To make matters worse, today we have been appalled by the sight of tens of thousands of irresponsible vacationers flocking to the coast, as if this was just another spring break week, with callous disregard for residents’ health and safety. This, despite the Governor’s strong urging to stay at home, and prohibitions on gatherings larger than 25, CDC recommendations against gatherings larger than 10, and the constant urgings of the CDC to practice social distancing and stay home except for essential tasks. 

Throughout the day today, I and other public officials in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties have been urging Governor Brown’s staff to have her close the overcrowded state parks and campgrounds immediately, and take other actions to stem the flow of tourists to our coast. 

In Warrenton, Mayor Henry Balensifer convened an emergency meeting of his Commission this evening to declare an emergency closure of campgrounds and other short term vacation lodging to non-residents. I applaud the Mayor’s actions, and am convening an emergency meeting of the Astoria City Council at noon tomorrow (Sunday 3/22) to consider a similar measure. I am also working closely with Clatsop County on their consideration of a similar measure county-wide. We don't want vacationers turned away from Warrenton to simply move to Astoria or other County jurisdictions.

Tomorrow afternoon, north coast Mayors and Commission Chairs will teleconference with Governor Brown to discuss this urgent issue. 

Additionally, as a reminder, the City of Astoria declared a state of emergency last Monday. We have also cancelled – in coordination with Clatsop County and the Port of Astoria – all passenger carrying cruise ship visits through June 1. 

We will post links on this page to the most current and useful information regarding unemployment assistance, business assistance, other state and federal aid packages when they are approved, as well as hospital, public health and school information that may be useful.

This is uncharted territory for all of us. Things are changing very rapidly and it is often frustratingly difficult to answer constituent questions quickly and accurately. But I will pledge to you to provide the best answers we have at the time, and pass on our community’s needs and concerns to our state and federal elected officials regularly.