Governor Kate Brown cracked the door last week for struggling areas with businesses and residents itching to reopen in the wake of the Covid-19 shutdowns, and almost every county flooded through it.
Only four of Oregon’s 36 counties have yet to apply for the first phase of reopening under the governor’s coronavirus preparedness guidelines, and they include the three Portland metro area counties (Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas) and coastal Lincoln County.
Counties who are approved to enter Phase I may allow the reopening of certain businesses under specific guidelines, including restaurants and bars, malls, gyms and personal services providers such as barbershops, hair salons, spas, massage parlors, nail salons, tanning salons and tattoo/piercing parlors.
While most of the counties whose plans for reopening are currently being reviewed by the Oregon Health Authority are much smaller, more rural and less affected by Covid-19 than Clackamas, some are not.
Marion County, which has less population but more than twice as many confirmed cases and deaths, turned in its application Saturday.
Last Friday, Clackamas leadership released a statement saying they were working on their application for Phase I, but “this is challenging due to our county’s size and unique make-up.”
The May 8 statement admitted they were “at least a couple of weeks away” from meeting the governor’s non-negotiable criteria for contact tracing, hospital readiness and case numbers.
The most difficult hurdles for Clackamas County include expanding testing and contact tracing capacity appropriate for a population of more than 400,000 residents.
Meeting the governor’s requirements for a county that size means conducting more than 1,200 Covid-19 tests per week and hiring as many as 100 contact tracers, according to Canby Mayor Brian Hodson, who took to Twitter on Sunday night to express his frustrations.
Not only do they need to hire 100 Tracers, must complete 1200+ COVID tests per week. I pray it’s only two weeks out. Businesses are suffering and County needs to come thru.
“I pray it’s only two weeks out,” he said. “Businesses are suffering and County needs to come thru.”
In response to a local Canby School District parent, whose family is also confronting the challenges of distance learning, Hodson said, “I feel your frustration and I am truly sorry. I was beside myself this week when I and mayors across [Clackamas Count] learned this.”
In what may have been a bit of unfortunate timing, the county rolled out a new tool on Monday called “Who’s Open?” This interactive map provides a guide to the county’s restaurants, stores and other businesses that are still open or providing modified services during the shutdown.
County staff is available for technical assistance, or for businesses needing to add or make changes to information on the “Who’s Open?” site are encouraged to contact the county at 4Biz@clackamas.us.
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