Clackamas County Case Counts Cross Threshold for ‘Extreme Risk’

Despite the steady roll-out of vaccines and warmer weather that has spurred increased outdoor activities, coronavirus metrics in Clackamas County have continued their upward surge — and now it appears likely the area will be moved back to the most restrictive phase of the governor’s reopening matrix.

From a low of 81.7 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 3.4% in early February, two-week case counts have trended consistently in the wrong direction, landing at 212.3 and a positivity rate of 6.8% in the 14-day period ending April 17.

The mark pushes Clackamas County over the threshold for “extreme risk” in the state’s reopening framework — the highest and most restrictive level, which carries the most severe limits on restaurants and other businesses — including a ban on indoor dining.

Fortunately, a new metric Governor Kate Brown added to the reopening framework earlier this month may keep Clackamas in “high risk” for the time being.

Under the new criteria, extreme risk will be determined by statewide Covid-19 hospitalization levels in addition to case counts and percent of test positivity. For any county to reach extreme risk, Oregon must have Covid-positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average over the past week.

This backstop spared three counties — Josephine, Klamath, and Tillamook — who otherwise met the criteria for extreme risk from being moved to that level during the previous reporting period.

According to the latest data from the Oregon Health Authority, 243 Oregonians are currently in the hospital with Covid-19 — still below the statewide trigger that would reopen the extreme risk threshold.

“Covid-19 hospitalizations are a key indicator of severe illness in Oregon communities,” Brown’s office said. “As vaccine distribution increases, case counts and percent positivity will not be adequate indicators on their own for measuring the threat Covid-19 poses to public health.”

Brown is expected to announce updated county risk levels on Tuesday, April 20, with the new restrictions taking effect Friday and remaining in effect through May 6.

A return to extreme risk would close the doors of restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and other entertainment venues, with only limited outdoor dining, drinking and exercise activities being permitted.

Clackamas joined 13 other counties in the “high risk” category two weeks ago — the last time Brown announced updated risk levels.

The announcement prompted push-back from the county commissioners, who begged the governor to reinstate a two-week grace period that would have allowed more time to reverse course before the new restrictions took effect, but she declined.

The most vocal opposition had come from Commissioner Mark Shull and Chair Tootsie Smith — who intimated she might push the board to resist new restrictions that would harm small businesses.

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