Clackamas County Approves Plan, Will Apply for Phase 1 Reopening ‘as Soon as Possible’

Clackamas County has taken its first major step toward reopening. The Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to approve the county’s draft application for Phase 1 reopening, with minor revisions, and forward it to the office of Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority for review “as soon as possible.”

Counties who are approved for Phase 1 may begin the limited reopening of their businesses, restaurants, bars, personal services, churches, theaters and health clubs, under new sector-specific guidelines, physical distancing restrictions and limited occupancy requirements.

They must remain at Phase 1 for at least three weeks before they can apply for the second phase of reopening.

The county’s application for Phase 1 offers detailed explanations of how the county, its health region and health care system has either met the governor’s seven prerequisites for reopening, or plans to do so.

In the hearing Tuesday, commissioners were of the mind that, in terms of health care preparedness and capacity, “We’re ready,” and expressed the urgent need to begin reopening an economy ravaged by the Covid-19 shutdown.

They also encouraged citizens to continue do their part, following all the recommended public guidelines, including wearing face coverings while in places where it might be difficult to meet the physical distancing requirements.

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“If we see a surge and have to shut down again, … we could lose a lot of lives,” Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard said.

The county planned to finalize the application and submit it for review by the end of the day Tuesday. The county has also launched a new online dashboard, where residents can track the county’s progress on meeting the governor’s seven prerequisites for reopening.

“Submitting the application is an important step in safely and gradually reopening sectors of our economy,” said Clackamas County Disaster Management Director Nancy Bush. “Once the governor approves our plan, we must continue to work together as a community to protect ourselves and others from the risks of Covid-19. This includes washing your hands, keeping your physical distance, and wearing face coverings in public.”

Turning in the application is only the first step in the process, and approval is not guaranteed.

Last week, Governor Brown approved 31 of the 33 counties that had applied to begin reopening on May 15. The two she denied were Marion — one of the state’s largest and most severely impacted counties — and neighboring Polk.

“My job is to make hard decisions, even when they are unpopular,” the governor said in a press conference. “When it comes to the health and safety of Oregonians, the buck stops here.”

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