More than 20 Oregon counties, including Deschutes and Jefferson, will be considered at “extreme risk” of COVID spread and will see continued business and activity restrictions once the statewide two-week freeze expires next week.
Gov. Kate Brown and state health officials announced the new framework on Wednesday, putting different health and safety measures in place for counties based on COVID case trends in those areas.
The idea is to eliminate a one-size-fits-all approach to combating the spread of the virus while giving some leeway to businesses to reopen next month.
Under the “extreme risk” category, gyms and other indoor sports are still prohibited, but restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen to outdoor dining at 50% capacity.
State epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said outdoor dining does not mean eating in a place enclosed by cloth or plastic walls, as some restaurants had erected as the weather turns cold and rainy in Oregon.
He said a roof is allowed, but three sides should be open.
Grocery and other retail stores must operate at 50% capacity, churches at 25% capacity (or 100 total people, whichever is smaller) and offices must require employees to work from home if possible.
“My hope is that Oregonians in these counties take this news seriously and commit to hunkering down for the next several weeks,” Brown said in a news conference.
Here are the full guidelines:
- Social and at-home gatherings with people from outside your household will be limited to a maximum of six people, with a recommended limit of two households.
- Restaurants, bars, and other eating and drinking establishments will be limited to a maximum of 50 people for outdoor dining only, with only six people per table. Take-out is strongly encouraged.
- Indoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment establishments, including gyms, will remain closed, however, outdoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment activities, including outdoor gym activities, will be allowed, with a maximum limit of 50 people outdoors.=
- Retail stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and indoor and outdoor shopping centers and malls will be limited to a maximum of 50% of capacity, with curbside pick-up encouraged.
- Faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, and cemeteries will be limited to a maximum of 25% of capacity or 100 people indoors (whichever is smaller), or 150 people outdoors.
- Office workplaces will be required to utilize remote work to the maximum extent possible, with public-facing offices closed to the public.
- Personal services businesses will be allowed to continue to operate with health and safety measures in place.
- Long-term care facilities can allow limited outdoor visitation, following established health and safety protocols.
Counties that are successful in reducing their COVID-19 risk levels in the coming weeks and months will be able to incrementally move to lower risk levels, Brown said.
The revamped restrictions to combat the unprecedented rate of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations take effect when the current two-week “freeze” expires on Dec. 3.
Currently, only take-out restaurant service is allowed. The restaurant industry pushed hard against the restrictions as several eateries closed for good and others were at risk of doing so.
Asked if she was bending to industry pressure, Brown said: “I’m in the business, frankly, of saving lives and also preserving livelihoods.”
“The framework is intended to establish sustainable protection measures for Oregonians in counties with rapid spread of COVID-19, while balancing the economic needs of families and businesses in the absence of a federal aid package,” Brown said.
Deschutes County has seen a significant spike in COVID cases in the last several weeks.
This week alone the county has reported more than 160 new cases. Currently, the county has more than 1,100 active cases.
“It’s important to note that there is no Zero Risk category,” 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.”
School metrics, Brown said, remain unchanged.
There’s good news on the vaccine front as OHA Director Patrick Allen said he expects Oregon to get about 30,000 doses which will first go to frontline health care workers and those living in congregant settings in mid to late December.
County Risk Categories as of November 23, 2020
Lower Risk: (5)
Moderate Risk (4)
High Risk (6)
Extreme Risk (21)
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.