PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Both Multnomah and Clackamas Counties are slated to return to the state’s “High Risk” category Friday with regards to reopening.
Governor Kate Brown made the announcement Tuesday afternoon along with several other counties changing levels. The move comes as case counts and hospitalizations increase throughout several parts of the state.
“We are at a critical moment in this pandemic as we face more contagious variants of COVID-19 taking hold in our communities,” Gov. Brown said in a release Tuesday. “Now more than ever it’s imperative that we all continue wearing masks, maintain physical distance, stay home when sick, and get the vaccine when it’s available to you.”
Clackamas County commissioners said Brown’s announcement came as a surprise. They raised concerns during a policy session about how businesses will be impacted.
“This gives no window, no guide path for anyone to make any practical adjustments — that’s unfortunate,” said Commissioner Paul Savas. “The lack of consistency in the policies set by the state and they are not following their own policies, that’s the heartache I have today.”
Clackamas County has been in the Moderate Risk category since the end of February. Public Health Director Philip Mason-Joyner said county leaders have seen a recent uptick in weekly case numbers and they’re now concerned about the possibility of a surge in cases as people become more active around holidays and Spring Break. “Today’s news provides a disappointing reminder of our needs to continue to follow the precautions,” Mason-Joyner said. He encouraged everyone to schedule their vaccine appointments right away when they become eligible to do so.
Mason-Joyner said indoor entertainment facilities and restaurants, which had been operating at 50% capacity, will have to lower capacity back to 25% starting Friday. “To get that short of a notice, that’s going to be devastating,” said Savas. “This is a blow and maybe the state should help with that assistance of those businesses.”
Commissioner Martha Schrader expressed concern about the impact on smaller businesses. “I think with the business community, I think the big issue they have is the inconsistency that it seems to be hitting the smaller businesses in a greater way.”
Along with Multnomah and Clackamas, the counties with upgraded risk levels–meaning ones that will be moving back to tighter COVID-19 restrictions–included Deschutes, Klamath, Linn, Tillamook — all of whom are returning to “High Risk” from “Moderate Risk.”
Malheur and Grant Counties were both downgraded from the moderate category to “Lower Risk.”
Oregon health officials also announced they would be adding a statewide hospitalization metric for moving a county to the “Extreme Risk” level:
Beginning this week, for counties to move to (or remain in) Extreme Risk, they must meet the county metrics for case rates and percent positivity, plus the metric of: COVID-19 positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average over the past week.
“Counties that meet the criteria for Extreme Risk but for the statewide trigger will be assigned to High Risk,” officials said in a release. “This week there are three counties that qualify for Extreme Risk based on their county metrics, but are assigned High Risk because the statewide trigger has not been met: Josephine, Klamath, and Tillamook.”
The Oregon Health Authority analyzes county data on a weekly basis and risk levels are reassigned every two weeks. The first week’s data will provide a “warning week” to prepare counties for potential risk level changes, according to OHA. For this round of changes, the caution period applied to Baker, Columbia, Lane, Polk and Yamhill Counties.
See all the changes below: