Governor Kate Brown announced Tuesday that 25 of the state’s 36 counties are at “extreme risk” of spreading the coronavirus and will face the most stringent new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for at least two weeks.
Brown’s list named five counties as originally outlined last week when the governor unveiled a four-tier structure to enforce restrictions. Counties are categorized into different categories based on case and test positivity ratios, with restrictions increasing based on risk level.
In practice, the state’s most populous counties, including Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Marion, Lane, and Jackson, fall into the “extraordinary risk” category. But Brown also added five more people to the list on Tuesday after officials collected new data. These are Crook, Hood River, Josephine, Lake and Morrow counties.
Benton County, meanwhile, has been rated “high risk” according to the latest calculations.
“I want to emphasize that there is no zero-risk category,” Brown said in a press release. “As long as COVID-19 vaccines are not widely available and highly participatory, health and safety precautions will remain in place so that schools, businesses and communities can reopen – and remain open.”
While the markings carry considerable weight – for example, indoor meals and roller shutters are banned in most counties – the application of the criteria by the state has not been clear.
People’s counties called “extraordinary risk” are said to have had at least 200 cases per 100,000 in the last two weeks, while counties with less than 30,000 inhabitants have a total of at least 60 cases.
But the criteria also listed that test positivity rates of 10% or higher fall under “extreme risk”. A review of state data from The Oregonian / OregonLive shows that in ten of the 25 counties with this designation, the positivity rate is below the threshold. This includes Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.
Spokesmen for Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, which produced the data, did not immediately answer questions about the application of the test positivity rate.
The new restrictions will begin on Thursday, the day Brown is “freezing” for two weeks across the country. They will be in place from December 3 to 17.
“Freezing” banned indoor and outdoor dining nationwide. But the new tiered system allows for indoor dining on the three lowest levels, while the highest-risk counties offer outdoor seating. The three lowest level gyms can open with limited capacity for up to 50 people.
The state said it reviews and publishes county data on a weekly basis, but determines whether counties are assigned to different risk levels every two weeks.
Brad Schmidt contributed to the report