The County Board of Commissioners, along with more than a dozen local chambers of commerce, politely asked the governor last week to reconsider her decision grouping Clackamas with its larger Portland metro area neighbors.
In her response, Governor Kate Brown, just as politely, said, “No.”
Yoking Clackamas to Multnomah County, which has the largest population and number of confirmed cases of Covid-19, would set its phase 2 reopening back at least three weeks. Though still not fully meeting all of the governor’s seven criteria, commissioners felt Clackamas was ready to enter the second phase, and asked the governor to let them move forward.
Brown, though, disagreed.
“We know you are working hard to address the challenges COVID-19 presents. Clackamas County has seen a 46% increase in new cases over the last seven days and has recently experienced the second-largest congregate care outbreak in the state,” she said, referring to the Marquis Hope Village Post-Acute Rehab Center in Canby. “As of today, there are 99 confirmed cases and 9 deaths at the Canby facility.”
Clackamas County had become eligible to apply for phase 2 reopening — which allows larger gatherings and looser restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses — on June 13, after 21 days at phase 1.
Commissioners had been mulling the application decision when the governor’s announcement came down. And though they had already decided to delay matters due to a spike in new cases, it’s unlikely they would have waited an additional three weeks or more.
The chambers of commerce had begged the governor to reverse course on the regional approach to reopening, which they said has further threatened the survival of thousands of already struggling businesses and working families in Clackamas and Washington counties.
“Our communities are financially collapsing under the weight of COVID-19,” they said, “and they each deserve the opportunity to return to normal as quickly as possible.”
In her letter, Governor Brown thanked the county for the hard work hospitals, public health officials and residents have put in to help limit the spread of Covid-19. She said the tri-county area will be eligible to move into phase 2 on July 10, if it meets the requirements for declining case numbers and other criteria.
“The data show that the work you are doing to build capacity for testing, tracing, and isolating new cases will be critical elements as you prepare to move into Phase 2, hopefully on July 10,” she said. “Thank you for all of your hard work and vigilance on behalf of Oregonians.”