PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she is considering opening rural counties with low infection rates starting May 15.
She announced the plan during a Friday morning press conference alongside health officials from the Oregon Health Authority.
The new strategies are part of Brown’s broader roadmap to reopen Oregon, which has been under a “Stay at home” order since March 23. She said reopening the rest of Oregon will happen slowly and not in “one fell swoop.”
“However, in certain parts of the state, we see zero cases … it is my hope some counties will be able to open starting May 15,” she said.
She also announced a plan to conduct randomized testing across the state in partnership with OHSU, which will ask 100,000 residents to participate in the study called “Key to Oregon”
Participation is voluntary but Brown encouraged those who are invited to comply. Invitations will be going out on May 11 in the form of a letter.
Officials at the news conference said testing is increasing across the state. Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s head epidemiologist, said Oregon can test about 15,000 people per week. The goal is to test anyone with symptoms, even mild.
Sidelinger said he expects cases will increase as the state reopens.
“Our projections show that the disease will increase in Oregon as we open up, that more people will be hospitalized and possibly die,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger said.
Brown’s office released draft guidelines on Thursday for how businesses might be able to resume operations. Among them are requirements to maintain strict social distancing and the potential for recording customers’ IDs in case health officials need to trace who came in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.
Many of the proposed rules are directed at bars and restaurants and include and include measures such as no customer self-service operations, no bar seating, no reusable menus and specific sanitation procedures.
The first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was announced on Feb. 28; to date, more than 100 people have died from the novel coronavirus and more than 2,500 people have tested positive.
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather