City Declares Emergency, Limits Public Gatherings, Opens Limited Camping

Posted on March 18, 2020

Salem, Ore. — The City of Salem is asking all residents to work together to help slow the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the March 17 joint meeting of the Salem City Council, Urban Renewal Agency and Salem Housing Authority, two actions were taken designed to ensure social distancing precautions in public settings. These new rules include maintaining social distance (six feet or more) in public settings in accordance with recent orders from Governor Kate Brown and recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control.

“We understand some of the actions to stem the local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will pose a hardship for people in our community. Protecting the health of the community is a central task of the City Council. We believe the Council’s unanimous action last night is necessary if we are going to have a positive impact on the virus,” said Mayor Chuck Bennett.

Limits on meeting attendance

The City Council put temporary public meeting procedures in place through April 28, 2020, to ensure continuation of necessary City business while complying with guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Salem City Council, Urban Renewal Agency Board and Salem Housing Commission meetings will be limited to fewer than 25 people, including members of the governing body, the public and staff.

In-person public comment will be temporarily suspended at meetings. Public testimony may be provided in advance of the meeting via email to“>

Real time remote viewing of these meetings is available online on the City of Salem Facebook page, Comcast Cable CCTV Channel 21, or on the CCTVSalem YouTube channel.

Emergency declaration

The Salem City Council declared a state of emergency that allows them to take rapid action in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of its spread throughout the community. The declaration cites threats to the health and safety of unsheltered residents of the city and increased risk to vulnerable populations of contracting COVID-19 through public gatherings.

The emergency declaration includes provisions for temporary limits on public gatherings and repeal of the camping ban in two specific locations. The declaration took effect immediately. Its rules, listed below, will terminate on April 28, 2020, unless extended by the Salem City Council.

Limit on public gatherings

Under the emergency declaration, gatherings of two or more people are banned in or on any public space within the city of Salem, unless a permit for a public gathering has been issued by the Salem Chief of Police. Loitering on public sidewalks and landscape strips is prohibited. Use of public space, including sidewalks, landscape strips, and City parks is limited to active pedestrian use including walking or other human-powered transportation, such as bicycling.

Exceptions include:

  • Individuals experiencing a medical emergency
  • Individuals, as a result of physical disability, who use a wheelchair, walker or similar movement-supporting device for mobility purposes, and their companions or caregivers
  • A child in a stroller or similar movement-supporting device
  • Sitting on a fixed chair or bench on a public sidewalk or in a park
  • Sitting on a public sidewalk at a marked bus stop while waiting for public or private transportation
  • Public safety personnel performing work in the course of their duties
  • People involved in a City-approved or permitted activity

Salem Housing Authority, along with ARCHES and Salem Police were downtown this morning, contacting unsheltered groups to inform them of the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of social distancing. They are also being informed that they can no longer loiter in public spaces, as defined by the emergency declaration.

Police will continue to direct people to resources such as Salem Housing and ARCHES and inform them where the camping restrictions have been temporarily lifted.’
Lifting of camping ban in Wallace Marine and Cascades Gateway parks

To reduce the impact of the public gathering ban, the City Council has suspended the ban on maintaining a campsite in all unimproved areas of Wallace Marine and Cascades Gateway parks, with the following rules:

  • Individuals and groups of less than 10 people can maintain campsites, but remain subject to all other laws and City park rules.
  • Campsites must be separated by at least 50 feet and must be at least 50 feet from any improved area of the park and from other abutting properties.


We encourage anyone experiencing hardships as a result of COVID-19 prevention rules to seek help through local helping organizations. The 211 directory is a good source of information on those resources.

Ongoing prevention

The City of Salem continues to coordinate with the Oregon Health Authority and Marion County Public Health on COVID-19 policies. They are the public health authorities for our area. COVID-19 resources:


Half Price Oregon
Buddy Puckett
Day Heating and Cooling
Oregon Medical Centers
Total Comfort
Timber Town HD
Old Mill Feed & Garden
Larrys Locksmith