Clackamas County’s return to the highest and most restrictive risk level for the coronavirus will last only one week, Governor Kate Brown announced Tuesday, saying the brief crackdown was enough to stem the tide of a fourth wave of infections and hospitalizations.
Brown said the statewide seven-day average increase for patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has dropped below 15%, meaning Oregon no longer meets the threshold for any county to be assessed at the “extreme risk” tier.
“Let me be clear: across the state, Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are still high, and Oregon is not out of the woods yet,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “However, we have met the hospitalization metric established by our health experts for counties to return to high risk.”
Clackamas, along with two-thirds of Oregon’s counties, will be in the “high risk” category as of Friday, May 7 — meaning indoor dining may reopen at restaurants and bars, while restrictions will loosen on gyms, theaters and other venues as well.
“With our statewide hospitalization rate stabilizing, our hospitals should have the capacity to continue treating patients with severe cases of Covid-19 and other serious medical conditions in the coming weeks,” Brown said.
With Oregonians continuing to do their part by getting vaccinated, the governor said she expects that “we will not return to extreme risk again for the duration of this pandemic.”
That’s the good news. However, the indoor capacity limits in high-risk counties are still severe.
For restaurants, bars and other establishments, indoor dining capacity is 25% maximum occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller, and parties are limited to six people per table.
Likewise, indoor fitness centers and entertainment venues such as theaters and museums will be at 25% occupancy or 50 people (staff included), whichever is smaller.
Faith institutions may allow 25% capacity or 150 people, whichever is smaller. Up to 200 are permitted for outdoor services.
“I know this will bring relief to many across the state,” Brown said. “However, the lifting of extreme risk health and safety measures comes with great personal responsibility for us all.
“If Oregonians continue to keep up their guard, follow high risk health and safety measures, and get vaccinated as fast as possible, we should see our COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates decline.”
Brown also alluded to Tuesday’s news that the federal government would be shifting to focus vaccine allocations in states where there is higher demand.
“Oregon will ask for the maximum allowed, which will help us to get shots in arms faster,” Brown said. “Vaccinations are still our best path to protecting our loved ones, and staying on track to fully reopen our economy by the end of June.”
While the news that restaurants and bars may reopen Friday was indeed welcomed by many, for Republicans in the state Legislature, the episode illustrated the need for bills they have introduced that would reform and limit the governor’s emergency powers.
“Oregonians deserve stability, but the governor is giving them whiplash,” Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons, said in a statement. “Local business owners and workers cannot even plan their lives a week in advance.
“No one person should have all this power over the everyday lives of Oregonians. This reversal further highlights the need for the Legislature to hold the governor accountable and pass legislation to check her abuses of power.”
These Republican-backed measures include Senate Bill 533, which would prohibit the governor from taking actions that keep Oregonians from working or operating their businesses, and Senate Bill 789, which would require her to get lawmakers’ approval to extend an emergency declaration after 60 days.
So far, both have gone nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Nearly 1.9 million Oregonian adults had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Tuesday afternoon — more than 1.3 million of whom have been fully inoculated.
In Clackamas County, 178,000 residents have received at least one jab, representing about 42% of the total population. Health experts say at least 70% of the population must be immunized to reach the threshold of herd immunity.
Those interested in taking the vaccine may also register with the state at getvaccinated.oregon.gov to be notified of appointments when they are available for your eligibility group.
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