The state lowered the COVID-19 risk level for six Oregon counties on Tuesday, offering a glimmer of hope 10 months into the pandemic.
No county saw its risk level increase for the next two-week period, which starts on Friday.
Two dozen Oregon counties still have the top risk level for the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s public health framework that determines each county’s public health measures like limits on dining and businesses.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the updates to county risk levels on Tuesday. There are four levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread: extreme risk, high risk, moderate risk and lower risk. The updates mean that two-thirds of Oregon’s 36 counties, including the Portland metro area, will continue to be in the extreme risk category and face the most restrictive public health measures, including prohibitions on indoor restaurant dining, indoor entertainment, gyms and indoor visits with residents at long-term care facilities. The counties with lowered levels are primarily along the coast.
“After weeks of diligent work by local leaders and public health officials to implement health and safety measures in their communities, this week’s county data is a welcome sign that we are making progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon,” Brown said in a statement. “The county risk level framework is meant to put us on track to reopen our schools, businesses, and communities. It is not easy. Oregon families and businesses have made incredible sacrifices.”
The pandemic has killed 1,433 people in Oregon. More than 110,000 Oregonians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic started.
The state determines the risk level for each county every two weeks based on COVID-19 case counts. This latest determination is for the two-week period that starts on Friday, Jan. 1 and ends Jan. 15. Public health officials continue to urge Oregonians to continue public health measures like wearing a mask and avoiding large gatherings.
Brown said: “If we work together, we will see more counties begin to lower their COVID-19 risk levels. If communities let down their guard too early, we could see our hard-won progress unravel just as quickly.”
She lowered the risk levels for six counties, including Clatsop, Coos, Douglas, Lincoln and Morrow counties, which dropped from extreme risk to high risk. High risk is the first level at which businesses and workplaces can open up more, albeit with restrictions still in place. For example, indoor dining is allowed in restaurants using up to 25% of the building’s capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Indoor entertainment facilities and gyms and other indoor recreational facilities can reopen at the high risk level with the same capacity limits as restaurants and bars. Earlier in December, the entire Oregon coast was in the extreme risk category.
The risk level also dropped for Lake County in rural south-central Oregon. That county went from moderate risk to lower risk. Lower risk is the least restrictive level and allows restaurants to operate at up to 50% capacity. That level is also the only one that allows office work on a limited basis. All the other risk levels either require or recommend employers to provide remote work options. In all, seven Oregon counties are in the lowest risk.
Currently, no counties are in the moderate risk category.
You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.