PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington and Clackamas counties were among 16 counties that improved their risk level on Tuesday, Governor Brown’s office announced.
Both counties moved from High Risk to Moderate Risk. Marion County was lowered from Extreme Risk to High Risk. Nine other counties moved down from Extreme Risk as well.
Multnomah County remains in High Risk.
The change is effective February 26 through March 11. There will be five counties in the Extreme Risk level, 11 at High Risk, 10 at Moderate Risk, and 10 at Lower Risk.
A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.
The Extreme Risk category is the most restrictive: indoor dining is not allowed and gyms and entertainment venues are strictly limited in capacity. But in the High Risk category, restaurants can allow some indoor dining and gyms are able to slightly increase the number of people they let inside.
‘Light at the end of the tunnel’
Lauren Reese and her husband Ben own Lionheart Coffee Company in Beaverton. They opened a second location at the corner of SW Watson and 1st just a few months before pandemic closures forced them to lay off most of their 18 employees.
“We’ll never forget how the bottom just fell out,” Reese said. “We went from at 9 o’clock in the morning wondering ‘is this really happening’ to 2 o’clock having a bawling, tearful conversation with our staff, having to lay them all off.”
Fast forward nearly a year and the couple has hired most staff members back with the help of federal pandemic assistance and they’re also serving breakfast all day.
“Honestly in the last three months we’ve kinda hit our stride,” said Reese. “We know what’s coming, business is starting to be a little bit more stable so the news today was a little surprising.”
Reese said in order to open their indoor dining room, Lionheart Coffee Company will need to hire more people. They also want to wait until staff has access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We really would ask the governor to consider essential workers and service workers part of the next wave,” she said, adding that the improved risk level “shows that the numbers are dropping — it’s felt recently like there’s totally a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Across the street, Syndicate Wine Bar has had a much different experience. David Anderson and his wife opened the bar six months before the pandemic but he said the roller coaster of closures and reopenings didn’t stop them from being able to hire more people.
“Believe it or not, we consistently grew through the pandemic and we’ve been declined for the Payroll Protection Program because we don’t have losses,” Anderson said. “It’s been a very interesting ride.”
Anderson said the risk level changes announced Tuesday likely won’t have a big impact on the way Syndicate Wine Bar operates.
“With 50% indoors, I honestly don’t expect much of our operations to change — most of our customers actually request outdoor dining,” he said. Anderson said they can currently seat nearly 60 people outdoors under tents and so-called “wine cabanas” and the improved risk level means they can go from only seating six or seven people inside to seating 15.
Syndicate Wine Bar closed their kitchen and partnered with surrounding restaurants to provide take-out for people drinking at the wine bar. Anderson said they’re still getting customers who are sitting down to have a glass of wine outside of their homes for the first time in nearly a year.
Both Reese and Anderson said they’re thankful for customers who have supported them through it all.
“I would just ask that all consumers out there trust that the restaurants are doing everything they can, we are doing what we can to keep you safe,” Anderson said.
This latest update comes as Oregon is showing a decrease in reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. On Monday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 324 new cases, bringing the state total to 153,134.
Twelve counties’ risk levels were lowered in Gov. Brown’s last update, including Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.