Larger gatherings, longer hours for restaurants and bars, and the reopening of pools, recreational sports and other activities will be allowed for Oregon counties approved to enter phase 2 of Governor Kate Brown’s reopening plan.
The long-awaited guidance for the second phase came in a press conference Wednesday morning — just two days before 31 of the state’s 36 counties may begin applying for it.
Counties that enter phase 2 may hold gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, while indoor and outdoor venues, including theaters and churches, may allow gatherings of up to 250 as long as the standard six feet of physical distancing and other measures can be strictly maintained.
Restaurants and bars will also be allowed to stay open until midnight, while pools, recreational facilities, and activities such as bowling, batting cages and mini-golf may reopen under new guidance.
Offices can begin reopening and employees can return to workplaces with physical distancing and other measures in place, the governor said, though remote work is still strongly recommended whenever possible.
The governor also announced that zoos, gardens, and museums can reopen in a limited fashion across the state — regardless of what phase the county is in, and said professional and collegiate sports teams can return to training in their facilities with physical distancing and health and safety measures in place.
The governor acknowledged that her plan will increase the risk that more Oregonians will be sickened by the novel coronavirus.
“Any reopening comes with risk. That’s just a fact of life right now,” she said. “We need to reduce the risk that comes with reopening. So, fellow Oregonians, you have another chance to shine. A chance to show that you are looking out for your friends, family, and neighbors.”
To move onto phase 2, counties must remain at phase 1 for at least 21 days and meet a host of other criteria that demonstrate they are succeeding in controlling the spread of the virus.
These criteria, which Governor Brown detailed in a letter to counties, include demonstrating that their contact tracers are able to follow up on at least 95 percent new cases within 24 hours, and successfully trace the source of the infection in at least 70 percent of new cases.
Counties must also show less than a 5 percent increase in new cases in the county over the past week, and no significant increase in the percentage of cases that test positive out of the total number tested.
Now more than two weeks after more Oregon counties began reopening under the governor’s phase 1 guidelines, the state’s Covid-19 situation has remained stable, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Two weeks ago, Oregon had the fifth-lowest infection rate in the nation; as of Wednesday, it had the fourth-lowest rate.
Hospitalizations also continue to fall. Tuesday, there were 102 Oregonians hospitalized with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases — down from 161 two weeks ago, there were 161.
As testing increases across the state, the percentage of positive tests has declined. Last week, Oregon’s positive test percentage was 1.7 percent, which was down from the 2.6 percent positive rate on May 15th. Nationally, the rate of positive tests is approximately 12 percent.
“I want to say thank you to each and every Oregonian who has made sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our communities,” said Governor Brown. “Your leadership — you choosing to be both kind and smart — is why we have been able to start the reopening process.”
Clackamas County was approved to enter phase 1 reopening on May 23, and would first be eligible to apply for phase 2 on June 13.