About 250 anti-lockdown protesters gathered for a Thanksgiving meal in Oregon on Wednesday, just hours after the state’s governor extended COVID-19 restrictions.
Demonstrators were encouraged to bring dishes, such as turkey and pies, for a sharing buffet and were pictured sitting at rows of tables or under tents amid the afternoon drizzle in Salem, the Statesman Journal reports.
“The lockdown shouldn’t be happening,” one attendee, Geena Shipman of Springfield, told the local newspaper.
“When businesses have to close … it affects them. A lot of people have worked their whole lives to build a company to support their family and they’re getting shut down because they can’t afford to stay open … and that’s not fair.”
Several anti-lockdown protests have been held in Oregon in recent weeks, with Governor Kate Brown defeating a legal challenge from local restaurant owners calling for statewide anti-coronavirus measures to be lifted.
The latest demonstrations came only hours after Brown urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving as she revealed plans to replace the state’s two-week “freeze” restrictions with softer, longer-lasting measures.
At a press conference Wednesday, Brown announced that the “freeze”—in which restaurants are limited to takeout and other businesses are shut—would be replaced by a tier system next Thursday.
Under this plan, counties’ coronavirus data will be used to assign one of four risk levels: extreme risk, high risk, moderate risk and lower risk.
Measures for extreme-risk counties include restaurants and bars being limited to 50 customers for outdoor dining only, gyms remaining closed, and retail and grocery stores operating at no more than 50 percent capacity.
The limits are expected to continue until at least January and could be in place until a majority of the population has been vaccinated, the Journal reported.
Announcing the changes, Brown said: “Until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, health and safety precautions will remain in place so that schools, businesses and communities can reopen, and stay open.”
“At every risk level, to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, Oregonians must continue to wear face coverings, watch their physical distance, wash hands, stay home when sick and keep social get-togethers and gatherings small.”
Figures for COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths have hit record highs in Oregon in recent days.
New confirmed and presumptive cases of the virus reached 1,517 on Sunday—the third consecutive day the record has been broken, according to official state figures. The total number of cases in Oregon now stands at more than 65,000.
A further 21 deaths were recorded on Tuesday, another state record, bringing the total number to 867, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Monday, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 456, another new high.
Last week, the director of the state health department Patrick Allen warned: “Oregon is on a steep and stark slope.
“But we aren’t powerless in the face of this virus. Because it depends on us to slow the spread. Your choices make a difference.”