Kulla: My perspective on the Commission's letter encouraging governor to reopen the economy

Yamhill County Commissioner
On Thursday, I joined my colleagues in approving a letter asking the Governor to move quickly in reopening the state's economy and public life, and assuring her that we stand committed to working with her to ensure this happens safely and prudently in Yamhill County. After much debate, we agreed on a simple letter that relied upon the Governor's framework for reopening Oregon and that did not ask for specific timelines.
Rest assured, I believe that, at each step, we must pause and consider: does the science, does the knowledge we have right now, support the next step in easing restrictions? Can we move forward, or do we need to pause here and watch and wait? As Anthony Fauci says, "you don't make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline." And, the Institute for Disease Modeling staff epidemiologists remind us that, by their modeling, we need to maintain aggressive interventions at least through mid-May in order to keep our curve of cases flat.
I chose to sign on to this simple letter because the Governor has committed to a process of opening up society deliberately yet swiftly, taking into consideration both geography and industry, and I support that measured and careful approach. Looking at her milestones of increased testing capacity, surge capacity in hospitals, increasing PPE for each industry, safe locations for quarantine for vulnerable people, and reducing numbers of new cases, in my view, our county and the state is well on the road to meeting these thresholds.
And, once we meet those milestones, we should take the steps necessary to reopen safely, always letting the data and science guide our next moves. But to do that, we need to have plans.
The Governor is moving fast on plans. At the state level, the Governor began meeting last week with expert groups and she continues this week, seeking input on best practices and innovative ways to do work that typically brings people together, following and incorporating the Presidential plan for reopening America. These industry- and setting-specific practices will then be vetted and set out as guidance for each phase of reopening.
For example, the Governor held a conference call with 1000 businesses on Wednesday, seeking input for broad recommendations. Later, she met with early childhood educators and daycare operators to learn more specifically about how childcare facilities can socially distance and what PPE they might need.
At the state level, Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department is working on a plan for phased reopening of parks with a limited facilities crew to maintain and patrol. All of these plans to keep distances between people and not spread coronavirus are essential and necessary before reopening, and they need to start being developed now. And yesterday, the Governor announced a timeline and plan for allowing hospitals and clinics to do PPE-necessary non-emergency procedures. You can see the Governor's draft timeline for developing plans in the framework link.
I really appreciated reading this article in Science Mag this week (see photos and www.sciencemag.org), titled "The lockdowns worked--but what comes next?" by Kai Kupferschmidt: "Choosing a prudent path is difficult, Buckee says, in part because no controlled experiments have compared the effectiveness of different social distancing measures. 'Because we don't have really strong evidence,' she says, 'it's quite hard to make evidence-based policy decisions about how to go back.'" The article continues, "For now, the most likely scenario is one of easing social distancing measures when it is possible, then clamping back down again when infections climb back up, a 'suppress and lift' strategy that both Singapore and Hong Kong are pursuing.
Whether that approach can strike the right balance between keeping the virus at bay and easing discontent and economic damage remains to be seen." I believe that with intention and attention, we can strike that balance in Oregon. But what does it take?
In Oregon, each time the Governor eases restrictions, we must be ready for a surge of infections: we must have sufficient diagnostic testing and contact tracing to quickly identify a sick person, quarantine them, identify people who may have been exposed, and get them tested or into quarantine as necessary. With each easing of restrictions, I suspect that we will continue to wear face masks, observe physical distancing, and gather in smaller groups for some time to come.
Each industry will have personal protective equipment at levels necessary to do their work successfully while keeping the virus from spreading; already, in the Mid Willamette Valley, SEDCOR (the economic development organization) is hosting a marketplace/portal where PPE manufacturers can list their items and businesses can go to purchase industry-specific PPE. I will post a link when it is live.
Reopening Oregon will take all of us working together. It will require you to take initiative ("what can I do in my business or life to promote physical distance and reduce virus transmission?"). It will take patience and understanding, and a measure of forgiveness.
One thing I've observed about this pandemic and our response to it is that there is regularly a temporal disconnect in understanding of the situation by any two people. I call it the "I'm two days ahead of you" problem. Because everything about this pandemic is moving so quickly, two people may have completely different perspectives on the situation simply because one person is two days (or even two hours) ahead in their understanding or information or experience.
In mid-March, I was talking with a friend who thought the pandemic and response was all fear-mongering, but I had been reading and talking with experts and making plans; I was two days ahead of her. In early April, the same friend told me it was time to mandate people wear face masks in public, and I was hesitant to agree in that moment; she was two days ahead of me. Please consider this in your interactions with others; you can ask: "am I two days ahead of you or two days behind you?"
We will get through this acute, stay-at-home phase of the virus arc, but it will take all of us doing our part. And we will enter the carefully-phased-in "return to a new normal" era together, again, all of us doing our part to keep the virus from spreading. It will require all of us to be engaged, taking responsibility for what we can do, pushing when we can and easing off when we must. I will be there with you all the way.



It’s very obvious where Commissioner Kulla’s loyalty lies and it’s right with Kate Brown the worst governor this state has ever seen. Our governor has done everything she can to keep this state from starting to heal itself. Brown did not drop the waiting week for unemployment till it was to late, has refused to set any date on opening, will not drop the CAT tax to ease money problems on businesses and generally has been absent from her job. Kate Brown is more concerned about the environment than the people of this state. Kulla why don’t you have a big old dose of common sense to go with all your science and data. The citizens of this state are out of money and the politicians that are running it are out of common sense.


I am deeply grateful to Commissioner Kulla for his leadership. His priorities are quite obviously focused on the health and well-being of Yamhill County’s citizens. He has taken a scientific and solid common sense approach to easing back in to some new version of normal. Our Governor has been front and center to deal with this crisis calmly and thoughtfully. I predict the folks in states like Georgia will suffer greatly for the irresponsible disregard of guidelines by THEIR leaders. My heart goes out to the medical providers who will bear the brunt of such ill-conceived decisions. Some of those front-line patriots will die trying to care for patients who CHOSE to expose themselves to this horrific disease.

And I do hope that following yesterday’s White House “rally,” everyone has recognized that taking the advice of Dr. Donald is hazardous to your health?

Let us exercise caution and STAY SAFE!

Bill B

While I agree that the governor has done a very poor job, particularly representing conservatives and the center, I do agree with her position on this. And likewise with Mr. Kulla.


Bill B

Totally agree.

Seems like a waste of time, however, to encourage the Governor to do what she is already doing? Let’s refocus Starrett on Yamhill County.... then these rewrites won’t be necessary at all.

Christmas has Talons

Anyone who can defend Kate Brown and how she could care less about people by shutting down certain businesses and churches must be as clueless. But then Brown is allowing pot shops ( so Kulla's primary business continues to thrive)and liquor stores to stay open while closing churches and restaurants. Say no more we know you're less interested in "science" and more concerned with giving more power to government and protecting your own business.

Christmas has Talons

I wonder when the NR is going to ask someone who isn't far left to write an opinion piece?


It seems that "far left" is defined as anything one disagrees with? I do not agree with everything published here, but have always considered the N/R to be fair and leaning conservative. Apparently it is an "eye of the beholder" thing?


I guess the whole social distancing concept is difficult for some to understand.....


I’m a republican that can agree with a Democrat on something if I want to. I agree with a slower opening. Voted for Starrett - something I regret every day.


I totally agree with Treefarmer ! I’m an independent voter and open to both sides. But I’m so tired of the Muppet Show in the White House these days. The Oregonian approach ref the Corona virus makes sense.


Casey, I appreciate the obvious thought put into this. A measured approach based on facts is what is going to be what gets us through this. Squandering what we have invested thus far in protecting the populace and our medical system seems foolish. To have done so well and risk another surge by opening up without adequate information and intent is misguided. We need more leaders like Mr. Kulla, who act based on information not opinion.


It supports my hope for the future to see so many common sense comments here - we can surely persevere if we stick together.

(And Jeb.....the "gauntlet" disappeared.....was it taken up?)

Jeb Bladine

Sorry, treefarmer, I just realized it was a stupid idea.


Well Jeb, thanks for the post, but I must contradict you – I thought the concept was BRILLIANT!
(I was planning to pop some corn.)


Darn the offer disappeared!

I was pondering “the needle exchange six months later, a conservative’s observation” or “what is a public benefit Corporation”, or......


What about the News Register having one page called:

“Leaning right”


Kulla approached the News-Register about publishing his perspective and the newspaper would absolutely welcome, and would publish, similar pieces from the other two county commissioners.

Jodie DeJonge
Managing Editor

A New Generation

As a worker on the front lines, thank you to Commissioner Kulla for continuing to be science based, and not caving in to the cabin fever. I continue to appreciate his ability to balance all the options and his respectful, thoughtful discourse.


A New Generation – Your perspective is invaluable, thank you for sharing it. Very credible news reports have identified powerful right-wing groups behind the scenes fomenting unrest and division in an understandably frustrated population. I too remain grateful for the calm non-political leadership of our local leaders. Please know that most of us are doing our best to support those of you on the front lines. STAY SAFE!!


treefarmer I don’t know how you think Kulla is non political. He leans so far to the left he’s got one foot in California . I’d like to see your sources on far right groups doing anything but trying to get their business running and not starve to death. I’m really curious if you were born in this state?


Jim – I strongly disagree with your assessment of Mr. Kulla. I cannot even imagine what informs your opinion about him. Have you ever met him? He is a decent hard-working family man. I regard him as down-to earth, (OREGON earth) compassionate, and very knowledgeable. I supported his campaign, voted for him, and could not be more grateful for the way he is doing his job. These are times that test the qualities of our leaders. Some have flunked that test miserably, but Oregonians are blessed.

Re the source of information about the well-financed campaign to undermine stay-at-home protocols, the most recent reporting was in the Washington Post yesterday titled: “The money behind the protests” If you are interested, Google can provide additional resources to validate the facts. It is despicable and un-American that the desperate folks you reference are being manipulated from the shadows by those with nefarious agendas. If ever our nation needed to be united, it is NOW! So many lives are at stake.

Finally, yes, I am a native Oregonian, born and raised in Salem, educated at the U of O in Eugene. I worked in California for a few years but returned home in the 70s and plan to spend the rest of my life in this beautiful state.


treefarmer I’ll reply to you in reverse order. Glad you are a native because I am sick and tired of people moving here from out of state and trying to make this state like the hot mess they moved from.
I don’t have any idea what the Washington Post has to do with what’s going on in Oregon? 75% of Oregon meets all the criteria of opening up right now, most of it is the rural parts of the state which Kate Brown absolutely hates because they have stood up to her nonsense.
Mr. Kulla represents nothing I stand for. He ran as a farmer and got elected as such and turned around and stabbed the farmers in the back with his support of the Carlton Trail. He comes off arrogant, condescending and trying to act smarter than anyone he interacts with. With the people that back him he’s as liberal as Bernie Sanders.
By the way you have to dumb it down for us because commoners like me had to look up the word fomenting. All this is my opinion and this is America so I guess I can voice it.


Jim – I read and value the opinions of others. Sometimes my own perspective is affected by a good logical argument from another point of view. I sincerely appreciate it when that happens, a closed mind would be an embarrassment.

It is very interesting that our impressions of Mr. Kulla are so different. I have not witnessed anything close to the arrogance and condescension you perceive, obviously we view things through our own lens. I think the Carlton Trail is a great idea, so that probably explains some of the disparities in our opinions? I question your comment that the governor “hates” parts of the state. Not that I don’t believe you see it that way, it just seems like an extreme assertion given the circumstances.

Re the divisive and counter-productive “protests”, I was referring to deceptive national provocation, not something specific to Oregon. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about that. I remain highly concerned about a reckless return to unnecessary contagion. Plus, it is a fact that dead people can’t do much to rebuild an economy.

And I am also sorry you were put off by the word “foment.” I wasn’t trying to use lofty language, I have always thought that little word communicated a serious concept accurately. Anyway, I do appreciate the opportunity to compare notes, and p.s. I have to look up words all the time so could it be we are both proud commoners?


treefarmer thanks for answering in a calm and thoughtful manner. You see Mr Kulla in a whole different light than I do because you lean to the left and I lean to the right. It’s fine to have a difference of opinion as long it doesn’t turn into a hate fest. I was hoping that this pandemic would heal the divide in this country but unfortunately when people’s lives and livelihoods are on the line the governors in certain states became dictators and widened the gap even further.


Hey Jim – Right/left notwithstanding, we are in TOTAL agreement about hope for healing the divide in America. I remember how we all came together after 9/11 but since then it seems that many have hunkered down into tribes and fortified their bunkers with concrete. I honestly believe a large factor in the divide has been purposefully manipulated - which is too demoralizing for words. Holding different points of view does not, should not, make us enemies. We are fellow Americans.

Stay safe, fellow American.

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