Like the rest of the U.S., Oregon has been unable to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although we are better off than many other states, our positive test rate is the highest it’s been in four months.
After weeks of threats, Gov. Kate Brown could come through with one: a potential interstate travel ban. Such a ban has not been done before in the U.S.
According to a governor’s office daily update sent to legislators obtained by Eugene Weekly, Gov. Kate Brown is in talks with neighboring states about travel restrictions. Oregon is part of a Western States Pact with Washington, California, Colorado and Nevada with “a shared vision for reopening their economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future.” Oregon’s neighbors in Washington, Nevada and California have much higher infection rates than Oregon, according to the CDC.
The update says it would not be an outright ban but rather increased restrictions that will be phased in and will take into account people who cross the border for work and shipping. Discussion on the ban — or increased travel restrictions — could start as soon as next week.
After the story was published, the governor’s office deputy communications director Charles Boyle said positive COVID-19 cases have been linked to interstate travel.
“The issue of travel restrictions was raised by members of the Governor’s Medical Advisory Panel based on COVID-19 cases linked to travel in southern Oregon, which is troubling based on the spikes in case counts California is currently experiencing,” he says.
He says the governor’s office is asking health experts at the Oregon Health Authority and the Medical Advisory Panel for more data regarding the travel-related spread of COVID-19.
“In conversations with legislators today, our office also discussed the reality that many Oregonians in communities on the state’s borders often cross those borders for work, and that any restrictions must take economic and supply chain implications into account,” he says.
He adds that the travel restriction focus is on tourist travel from hotspot states and communities.
At a July 22 press conference, Brown previously floated the threat of a travel ban if Oregonians were unable to lower positive cases.
The U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment establishes the “right to travel,” which can be revoked through due process of law. Legally, according to Georgetown Law, domestic travel has never been limited. California tried to restrict the travel of “Okies,” but in 1941 the Supreme Court struck it down.
“When the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted in 1868 it had been squarely and authoritatively settled that the right to move freely from State to State was a right of national citizenship,” wrote Justice William O. Douglas in a concurrence in the 1941 court ruling.
As of Tuesday, Aug. 4, Oregon has had 19,699 COVID-19 total cases and 333 deaths.
This article has been updated