PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced 15 counties will return to the “High Risk” category starting Friday as COVID-19 hospitalization rates level out across the state.
Last Friday, Brown announced 15 counties — including Clackamas and Multnomah — were moved back to the Extreme Risk category. But starting May 7, a total of 24 counties will be at High Risk, four at Moderate Risk and eight at Lower Risk.
State metrics show Oregon’s seven-day average increase for hospitalized COVID patients has dropped below 15% so the state no longer qualifies for Extreme Risk restrictions.
The counties moving out of the Extreme Risk category and into High Risk include Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Wasco.
Risk levels for two counties — Douglas and Malheur — are increasing from Moderate to High Risk.
Brown released the following statement with the announcement of the risk level changes:
“Let me be clear: across the state, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still high, and Oregon is not out of the woods yet. However, we have met the hospitalization metric established by our health experts for counties to return to High Risk. From the beginning, I have said that returning counties to the Extreme Risk level was about preserving hospital capacity and saving lives. 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.
“Based on today’s numbers, I am keeping my commitment to Oregonians. Beginning Friday, all counties in Extreme Risk will return to High Risk. With Oregonians continuing to get vaccinated each week, my expectation is that we will not return to Extreme Risk again for the duration of this pandemic.
“I know this will bring relief to many across the state. 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. I’d like to thank Oregonians for taking this surge seriously for the last several weeks. It’s because of you that our hospitals have not been overwhelmed.
“Today, we also received the welcome news from the Biden-Harris administration that they will be reallocating unused vaccines to the states that need them. Oregon will ask for the maximum allowed, which will help us to get shots in arms faster. 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.”
A full list of counties and their restrictions can be found here.
The state is now evaluating counties every week instead of every other week in an effort to speed up the return to normal business.
Brown had previously said counties that improve their COVID-19 metrics could move back down to lower risk levels. The governor also promised counties would only stay in the Extreme Risk level for a maximum of 3 weeks.
Another newer metric dictating closures is the state’s hospitalization rate, along with the number of cases and percentage of positive results.
La Provence, a breakfast restaurant with locations in Beaverton, Portland and Vancouver, is preparing for whatever restriction changes may come. Regional Director Zachary Laub said they’ve only been able to cover operational costs without any real profit during these pandemic months and this latest round of restrictions has been particularly tough.
“It’s significantly more challenging right now, just with Mother’s Day for us at La Provence is our busiest day of the year — it’s our Christmas, it’s our Mother’s Day, whatever you want to compare it to,” Laub said. “We’re happy to do what needs to be done for public health. It will be pretty stressful. We’re going into it prepared with an increase in outdoor dining like we have in the past.”
La Provence is hopeful people continue to support local businesses and restaurants regardless of risk levels moving forward.
Huber’s Cafe has also experienced the rollercoaster of pandemic restrictions. David Louie, whose family has been in the restaurant business for 126 years, said his great uncle became an owner of the restaurant in 1941 but had been involved since the late 1800s. News of Multnomah County moving out of Extreme Risk was an unexpected surprise.
“I didn’t expect this lockdown to end this Friday so I’m really happy with it,” he told KOIN 6 News.
Louie said employees he was forced to temporarily cut will be able to work again this Mother’s Day weekend.
The state of Washington announced Tuesday that all counties in the state will remain in their current phases despite concerns of a fourth COVID surge.
More than a dozen Washington counties were at risk of rolling back from Phase 3 to 2, including Lewis, Yakima, King and Snohomish. Under Phase 2, spaces like restaurants and movie theaters have to reduce capacity inside to 25% and caps small indoor gatherings at 5 people.
Governor Jay Inslee said he is enacting a two-week pause on rollbacks. At the end of two weeks, each county will be re-evaluated.
Sporting events are exempt from rollbacks and are allowed to operate by Phase 3 guidelines. That means the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Sounders can seat up to 9,000 unvaccinated people even if King County gets put back into Phase 2.
However, Inslee announced Monday that capacity at events like this could increase if there are designated ‘vaccinated sections.’