Deschutes and Crook counties next week will likely return to the “Extreme Risk” category for COVID transmission, prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants and closing gyms and other businesses until case numbers fall again.
Gov. Kate Brown made the announcement during a news conference on Friday where she also revealed COVID is spreading faster in Oregon than in all but one other state.
“Unfortunately today, that surge is here,” she said referring to the worry of the 4th surge of cases predicted a few weeks ago. “Right now, in the race between vaccines and variants, the variants are gaining ground and have the upper hand.”
Brown said they will analyze the data early next week to see which counties would need to roll back into extreme risk. If the data deems that necessary, she will cancel the “Warning Week” and those counties would be forced to implement the tighter restrictions on Friday, April 30th.
“This is not a step I take lightly, but it could be the last time we need to impose this level of restrictions given our vaccination trends and the virus’s behavior,” she said. “At this moment we are moving backward. Oregon needs to be moving forward.”
For counties to move to (or remain in) Extreme Risk, they must meet the county metrics for case rates and percent positivity, plus statewide hospitalization metrics: COVID-19 positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the past week.
Currently, 12 counties, including Deschutes and Crook counties, qualify for Extreme Risk based on their county metrics and case numbers but are assigned High Risk because the statewide triggers haven’t been met.
Dr. Renee Edwards, the senior vice president and CMO of OHSU, said she expected the state to surpass the 300 hospitalizations early next week.
On Friday the OHA reported 276 hospitalizations, including 21 at St. Charles in Bend.
Jonathan Gilliam, general manager of Boneyard Beer, says he and his staff are prepared to operate with strictly outdoor seating if that’s required.
“If it’s back to inside restrictions, we’ve already taken away one long table in one section that we’ve had to accommodate to a lower capacity, but we are just trying to role with the punches here,” he said, adding that after last year “we’ve got a backup plan for everything.”
Locally, COVID cases have been skyrocketing for the last few weeks.
Deschutes County reported just 60 total cases the week of March 20th; last week the county reported 395.
So far this week – and with one more day in the reporting period – the county has added 391 cases.
But along with the potential for restriction rollbacks, the governor also announced a plan to fully reopen Oregon’s economy by late June.
She said that effort would rely on Oregonians getting the vaccine and becoming more vigilant with social distancing and mask-wearing – two things she said likely would remain in place for much longer.
“Vaccines are absolutely the key to moving Oregon forward,” she said. “The overwhelming majority of our new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are people who have not yet been vaccinated. We are seeing younger Oregonians in the hospital now, as well as people who had no underlying health conditions.”