▶️ Businesses ready, doctors worry ahead of relaxed COVID restrictions

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After just one week in the Extreme Risk category, Deschutes and Crook counties move back to High Risk on Friday.

That means fewer restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings.

It has business owners celebrating and local health officials worried.

“Getting that news from the governor and building on that is really exciting,” said Pine Tavern General Manager Anthony Avraam.

With the increase in COVID hospitalizations dropping below 15%, 15 Oregon counties get to drop back down to the high risk category on Friday allowing the return of limited indoor dining at bars and restaurants. 

“It felt a little like restaurants were being singled out and it is hard plan when you have constant changes on what your business is going to look like,” said Avraam.

Things should be more consistent for Avraam as Gov. Kate Brown expects counties will not return to Extreme.

COVID restrictions to ease in Crook, Deschutes counties with return to ‘High Risk’

“That allows us to keep our staff and plan accordingly as far as what our menu is going to look like, what our restaurant is going to look like and even starting hiring from what we expect will be a busy summer,” Avraam added.

Oregon’s Restaurant and Lodging Association believes the state is heading in the right direction.

“Hopefully, worst-case scenario end of June Oregon’s economy is fully reopened,” said ORLA President Jason Brandt. “We’re in May, so right now is the time to start planning for more flexibility.”

With local COVID cases locally almost higher than they’ve ever been, doctors have concerns.

“The strain on us, the quality of care that our patients are getting and the fact that we are honestly just canceling appointments and shutting down clinics, it’s catching up to us and it’s taking its toll,” said Lead Physician at St. Charles Prineville, Dr. Natalie Good.

Good says hospital workers are stressed and overwhelmed.

“We’re really to the point where people come in with non-COVID things and it’s getting harder and harder to take care of them,” Good added.

Avraam says the Pine Tavern is taking all necessary health and safety precautions and is ready for Friday.

“We are certainly thankful we can get our feet down under us and get going in building Bend back together and getting the city back to normal as soon as possible,” Avraam said.

The governor and OHA reevaluate state metrics and risk levels weekly.

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