Rising COVID cases in Crook and Jefferson counties will move them back to the “High Risk” category for transmission, forcing tighter restrictions on businesses and activities for at least the next two weeks.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the changes Tuesday; they’ll go into effect on Friday.
“As we face more contagious variants and increased spread of COVID-19 in our communities, the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated,” Brown said. “Until you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors are fully vaccinated, it’s also critical that we all continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and stay home when sick.”
Crook County has been in the lower risk category for the last month, but cases have more than doubled in the last two weeks going from 19 to 40, said Vicky Ryan, the emergency preparedness coordinator for Crook County Health.
Jefferson County reported 48 cases over the last two weeks and its test positivity rate is more than 9%.
Tami Kepa’a, a Jefferson County Public Health spokeswoman, said people let their guard down after the move to lower risk and they saw a big spike after Easter.
Restaurants, bars and other businesses must reduce capacity to a maximum of 25% or 50 people; gyms can be at 25% capacity with a max of 50 people (whichever is smaller) and outdoor recreation facilities can open with a max capacity of 75.
“Starting with seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, thinking we are getting out of COVID and now going right back into high, extreme level again,” said Prineville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Daniels. “There is so many struggles right now, that I think they don’t know what to expect or what to do.”
The spike in both counties is so high that they’re skipping over the “Moderate Risk” level entirely.
In all, 11 Oregon counties are moving to higher risk levels as COVID cases statewide continue to climb.
Cases in Central Oregon have been going up for the last month after a steady decline dating back to the beginning of 2021.
Deschutes County cases are skyrocketing, going from 60 the week of March 20th to 393 cases last week.
But moving to an “Extreme Risk” level – and enduring the tightened COVID restrictions that come with that label – appears unlikely because the state now looks at more than individual county metrics.
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.
This week there are 11 counties that qualify for Extreme Risk based on their county metrics, but are assigned High Risk because the statewide hospitalization triggers have not been met: Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Linn, Marion, and Polk.
On Monday, the state had 243 COVID patients, including 13 at St. Charles in Bend.