Tri-Counties’ Phase 2 Reopening Will Be Delayed

Clackamas County will not be entering the governor’s phase 2 of reopening along with its metro area neighbors this weekend, as key indicators officials use to measure the counties’ progress in the fight against Covid-19 continue to move in the wrong direction.

The governor’s criteria require a county or region to remain at phase 1 for at least 21 days before applying for the second phase. Clackamas, which first began reopening on May 23, would have been eligible last month if not for Governor Kate Brown’s move linking it to Multnomah and Washington counties for future reopening decisions.

Clackamas County commissioners, along with business leaders, have asked Brown to decouple it from its larger and, thus far, more severely impacted Portland metro area neighbors, but she has refused. She has also denied Clackamas County’s phase 2 application once.

Though Clackamas County’s case counts are far below its tri-county neighbors, with barely half of the confirmed cases Washington has seen and less than a third of Multnomah’s, it lags behind on two of the six benchmarks required to advance, including an uptrend in hospitalizations and continued challenges with contact tracing.

On Tuesday, Disaster Management Director Nancy Bush told commissioners that the county is tracking a large number of active outbreaks, including at 11 long-term care facilities, eight workplaces and one social gathering. They are also keeping tabs on eight workplace exposures that have not resulted in outbreaks.

County Chair Jim Bernard said Tuesday that he is continuing to push for the governor’s office to “cut us loose” from the rest of the tri-county area.

“I’m worried about our businesses, and I don’t know if Multnomah or Washington are going to reach those six measurements in the next 30 days,” he said. “I think it’s possible we can, and I will ask her again. There’s no harm in asking.”

If Clackamas County were decoupled, it could be ready for phase 2 by next week, Bernard thought.

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.

The further relaxation would help struggling small businesses in Canby and throughout the county — particularly those in the hospitality, tourism and other service industries — but Bernard said it’s not something he would push at the expense of health and safety.

“I’m not going to risk lives so 50 people can get together,” he said.

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