Most counties in Oregon currently pose an “extraordinary risk” for the spread of COVID-19 and are expected to experience ongoing restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading, even after a two-week “freeze” that expires on December 3rd.
But these restrictions, which have been announced in the state as part of a new risk classification framework, include relaxed regulations for bars and restaurants, which are currently limited to delivery only. Under the new guidelines, up to 50 customers can dine al fresco in bars and restaurants, and tables can be limited to parties of six. The service should stop at 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, retail stores in 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties were able to see more regulation under the new framework, with their maximum utilization limited to half of normal. This is stricter than the current 75% utilization limit with a national freeze.
The new framework, which is strictly detached from the tiered system of reopening Brown’s economy introduced in May, places Oregon counties in one of four risk categories: extreme, high, moderate, and lower. The position of a county on this scale is determined by the proportion or number of new cases that a county experiences within two weeks, depending on its size and the percentage of current COVID-19 tests.
According to a chart released by the governor’s office on Wednesday, 21 counties currently fall into the “extraordinary risk” category, including all three Portland metro counties, Lane County, Marion County and Deschutes County. In addition, six counties are classified as “high risk”, four as “medium risk” and five as “lower risk”. The Oregon Health Authority will re-examine the county case data next week to definitively determine where each county is located when the freeze ends on Dec. 3, Brown’s office said.
Each classification of the governor’s new framework has its own limitations. Extreme risk counties are subject to many of the same rules as freezing, and there are significant differences, including shifts in regulation of restaurants and retail establishments. The extreme risk category also changes the capacity constraints of faith-based organizations, which are limited to 25% indoors, compared to 25 people freezing.
Gyms and other indoor recreation facilities in extreme risk counties are still closed, but outdoor recreation facilities can accommodate up to 50 people.
With each step of the continuity of risk classification, the restrictions become easier. For example, in high-risk counties, restaurants and bars can serve as residences, up to 25% of their occupancy, up to a maximum of 75 people. If a county is in the medium risk category, restaurants with a capacity of up to 50% can accommodate up to 150 people. In a similar way, the barriers to retail, indoor entertainment and indoor leisure facilities will be eased.
The new framework will be announced by officials for Thanksgiving, which could create occasions for the state and the country as a whole. And it comes when Brown faced fierce austerity to hold back business again, even as public health officials say private rallies have contributed the most to the state’s worrying spread.
In recent weeks, Oregon has repeatedly broken its own records of new daily suspected and confirmed cases, along with daily deaths.
Ever since Brown launched the freeze on Nov. 18, the spread of the coronavirus has accelerated in the northern hemisphere of the planet, triggering new restrictions in much of Europe, Asia, and the United States.
Connected: Follow-up of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Oregon
In the Northwest Pacific, Oregon and Washington health officials have reported staff shortages and are filling intensive care unit beds in hospitals. The communities acquired refrigerated trucks from Klamath Falls in southern Oregon to Portland on the state’s northern border, which serve as a portable growl. On Tuesday, Oregon reported 21 deaths on COVID-19, a one-day record.
Officials are concerned that gatherings from multiple households and long Thanksgiving weekend trips could further exacerbate this spread.