By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Welcome to a summer that allows for larger outdoor gatherings, some beers at a bowling alley and maybe a family vacation to the coast.
Deschutes County on Friday was approved for a move into Phase 2 of the state’s plan to reopen the economy effective Saturday.
The move comes after a 24-hour delay while state and county health officials reconciled an issue with recent new cases that couldn’t be traced. Further details show the new COVID-19 cases were traced to a known outbreak or were associated with out-of-state travel, according to the governor’s office.
Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday announced 26 counties, including Crook County, could relax some of the restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Jefferson County also received approval after the one-day delay.
“The summertime is here and it’s time to enjoy the outdoors,” Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone Said. “We’ll get some of these small businesses back up to speed, restaurants, church gatherings. This is an exciting time. The culture of wearing masks is going to be important – be a good customer. But other than that I think we can live our lives pretty comfortably now. Businesses are the key – making sure businesses can thrive and survive.”
Details of Phase 2 include:
- Gathering limits will be raised to 50 people indoors, and 100 people outdoors.
- Indoor and outdoor venues, including theaters and churches, with 6 feet of physical distancing and other measures in place, can reach a COVID-19 occupancy limit of up to 250.
- Offices can begin reopening and employees can return to workplaces with physical distancing and other measures in place, though remote work is still strongly recommended whenever possible.
- Increased travel will be allowed throughout Oregon, though staying local is still recommended to prevent overloading county health systems.
- Restaurants and bars will have curfews extended to midnight.
- Pools and sports courts will be allowed to reopen under new guidance.
- Indoor and outdoor activities such as bowling, batting cages, and mini golf, will be allowed to reopen under new guidance.
- Recreational sports can resume in a limited form, under strict physical distancing guidance.
Deschutes County has 21 active cases of COVID-19. Of the 134 cases reported, 113 patients are recovered.
One of the biggest components of Phase 2 is the allowance for more travel.
Bend City Manager Eric King’s order discouraging travel here was set to expire today, or whenever Deschutes County entered Phase 2. And it’s likely Oregonians will quickly return to the region for vacation.
“I think we can live our lives pretty comfortably now. Businesses are the key – making sure businesses can thrive and survive.” – Deschutes Co. Commissioner Tony DeBone
Central Oregon’s tourism-based economy took a major blow during the stay-home order with hotel occupancy rates dipping close to single digits until a little boost over Memorial Day weekend.
During the stay-home order, Visit Bend turned its messaging inward, asking visitors to come another time and nudging locals to experience some new “touristy” things.
Kevney Dugan, CEO of the tourism marketing agency, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about Bend’s tourism industry as the summer season approaches.
“Our community has done an incredible job limiting the spread of COVID-19, and Visit Bend will continue encouraging visitors and locals to practice responsibility and sustainability,” he said. “We’re excited to take our first step in rebuilding the local tourism economy with the launch of our new campaign, Never Have I Ever, encouraging repeat Bend visitors to experience our town in a new way while supporting small businesses that have suffered tremendously during the lockdown.”
As the summer heat approaches, Julie Brown, community relations manager for Bend Parks and Recreation, said they did not have any specifics to announce on local pools reopening.
“We’ll need time to recall staff, prepare schedules and determine what activities can occur in alignment with the state’s guidance issued less than 24 hours ago,” she said. “Our plans continue to reopen the “dry side” of Juniper on Monday, and the pools will not be included in the immediate future. We expect to have a timeline and more information next week.”
Museums are also allowed to open under new guidelines.
“We are preparing to reopen in the next several weeks but haven’t yet fixed upon a firm date,” said High Desert Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw. “We want to make sure we have the time to review the parameters Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority revealed (Thursday) and to check in with the Deschutes County Health Department to make sure we’re meeting them.”
Bend Mayor Sally Russell said she was excited for things to return closer to normal.
“This feels so good after where we’ve been,” she said. “I want to encourage people to go out and visit and their businesses and enjoy this opportunity to be with friends and extended family and enjoy the summer. But please still observe the guidelines for face coverings. That’s the piece that’s going to make sure we can keep our businesses open.”
While Phase 1 lasted just 21 days, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state health officer, said on Thursday, counties should expect to stay in Phase 2 for several months.