Oregon Governor Kate Brown has announced a press conference for 11 a.m. Wednesday to discuss “Oregon’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.” According to Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard, her office signaled on a press call earlier this week that she would impose stricter reopening guidelines that could roll some counties backward to earlier phases.
“I think you’re going to see on Wednesday, the governor’s going to roll back some counties to phase 1, where we are,” Bernard said Tuesday morning, during an update on the county’s progress in the fight to contain Covid-19.
Bernard told his fellow commissioners and county staff that state leaders believe new directives will be coming down from the governor’s office, which include limiting the size of gatherings, requiring all bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. and stepping up enforcement for face masks and other coronavirus guidelines in grocery stores and workplaces.
He said enforcement staff from the Department of Agriculture and Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be leveraged to check compliance in these areas.
“That’s where people are having the issue mostly, in the workplace,” Bernard said. “So I anticipate you’re going to hear that tomorrow.”
Last week, the governor imposed strict limits on the size of indoor social gatherings, limiting them to no more than 10 people, while admitting that such restrictions on private events would be difficult to enforce on people’s homes.
She did not further place further restrictions on restaurants, bars, churches and other gathering places, saying that the guidelines appear to be working in most places, and that there is no evidence such establishments have led to widespread outbreaks.
If the governor’s announcement tomorrow does follow Bernard’s predictions, it appears it would have little impact on Clackamas County, which remains in the first phase of her reopening plan, where bars and restaurants are already required to close at 10 p.m. and indoor gatherings outside of homes are limited to no more than 25.
But it may bring a roll-back for some counties that have moved on to phase 2 but have since been the sites of large outbreaks of the virus. Neighboring Marion and Umatilla in eastern Oregon are two counties that have seen more confirmed cases of Covid-19 than Clackamas — despite having smaller populations.
However, Clackamas County has registered the third-most deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic, with 33, behind only Multnomah (76) and Marion (62). At least 13 of those have been in Canby — 11 at Marquis Hope Village and two at Country Side Living.
Commissioner Paul Savas continues to be the loudest voice on the Board of Commissioners calling for Clackamas County to be decoupled from its larger and more Covid-impacted Portland metro area neighbors.
On Tuesday, Savas pointed out how, during one day in the past week, Multnomah had reported nearly eight times as many new cases as Clackamas.
While most, if not all, commissioners would prefer the counties to be able to reopen at their own pace, they feel any request to move forward with reopening would be denied again, as the state grapples with sharp increases of the virus in virtually every county — including Clackamas.
“We may all like to be decoupled, but if we don’t provide them with direct evidence that our numbers are actually going down — which they are not — I don’t see how we make that happen,” Commissioner Ken Humberston said. “If anybody’s got any bright ideas, I’d sure like to hear them.”
The governor’s press availability will also involve representatives from the Oregon Health Authority. A public live stream will be available here.