Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday moved Deschutes County into the “High Risk” category for COVID transmission, which eases restrictions for restaurants, gyms, and other recreation facilities.
The change is effective Friday.
Declining COVID cases allowed 12 counties to improve their risk levels with 10 improving from “Extreme Risk” for the first time since November.
County risk levels under the state’s public health framework aim to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19.
The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level.
Effective Friday through February 25, 14 counties will be at the Extreme Risk level, 11 at High Risk, three at Moderate Risk, and eight at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.
Rafael Rodriguez, owner of El Rancho Grande in Bend, said he cannot wait for indoor dining to return
“It means more revenue, it means bringing our employees back,” he said. “It’s very exciting to get some of them back.”
The change is especially helpful for gyms like Orange Theory and Lift fitness studio that rely on groups or classes.
“People come here because of the community it is what keeps them going when they are tired,” said Jacqueline McGrew, studio manager at Oregon Theory
Crook and Jefferson counties remain among the “Extreme Risk” counties.
The Portland tri-county area improved to “High Risk.”
Under the new relaxed restrictions, indoor dining is available with a maximum capacity of 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.
“Thanks to Oregonians who have stepped up and made smart choices, we have made incredible progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives in Oregon,” Brown said in a statement. “This week we will see 10 counties move out of Extreme Risk, including the Portland tri-county area, for the first time since November. This is welcome news, as we’ll start to see more businesses open up and Oregonians being able to get out a bit more.
“It’s also incredibly important that we continue to remain vigilant and protect our neighbors and loved ones as we face virulent new strains of COVID-19. This means continuing to wear masks, keep our physical distance, and avoid indoor gatherings. If we want to keep businesses open, reopen schools for in-person instruction, and stay safe, we must keep up our guard. Until vaccines are more widely available, case counts could go back up if we don’t keep following safety measures.”
COVID cases in Deschutes County dropped last week to 161 – the fewest since late October. On Monday the county reported only five new cases.
Hospitalizations are down as well. On Feb. 5th, St. Charles reported nine COVID patients, the fewest since early November.
The Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly.
County risk levels will be reassigned every two weeks.
The first week’s data will provide a “warning week” to prepare counties for potential risk level changes. The next assignment of risk levels will be announced February 23 and take effect February 26.
Updates to Warning Week data and county risk levels will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov.