Oregon’s new COVID-19 rules will begin on Thursday. Here’s what you need to know


Kate Brown’s two-week temporary freeze to curb the spread of COVID-19 ended Thursday. But new constraints arise as state leaders and public health officials wait to see if Thanksgiving gatherings contribute to the growing number of cases and prepare for the possibility of even greater risks during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The new system is a little more complicated than freezing; it is a four-tier system of virus tracking and testing in each of 36 counties in Oregon.

How it will work

The vast majority of Oregon — 25 counties, including the Portland region and much of the Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley, and Central Oregon — is now considered “extremely high-risk”.

Connected: Sector risk level diagram

For at least the next two weeks, the rules in these communities will be similar and will feel like they have been in place since the governor’s freeze took effect.

Indoor meals are not allowed, social gatherings may be limited to six people and up to two households. Stores are limited to 50 percent capacity – less than what the last two weeks have allowed.

Gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other indoor recreation areas will remain closed. Indoor K-12 and college sports are prohibited. Certain outdoor recreation, including outdoor gym classes, is permitted as long as 50 or fewer people participate and social restraint rules are followed.

Churches, synagogues, and other faith organizations can accommodate up to 25% capacity or 100 people indoors, whichever is smaller, or 150 people for outdoor services.

Salons, chiropractors, and other personal service industries can remain open using appropriate security protocols. Retirement homes and assisted lifestyle centers can allow visitors to do so.

Offices and other workplaces should, where possible, operate employees remotely.

Outdoor visits are allowed in the nursing home.

Looser rules for lower risk areas

The guidelines are looser in less dangerous conditions. Some indoor meals are allowed in these 11 counties, as are some indoor sports. Shops and religious institutions remain limited in how many people can be admitted at one time. Indoor visits are allowed in nursing homes and outpatient homes in lower-risk communities.

Currently, only four counties – Gilliam, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler – are considered “low risk”. Even in these places, life does not return to the pre-pandemic situation: The new restrictions limit social gatherings to a maximum of 10 people in low-risk counties, with restaurants with a capacity of 50% and stores with a capacity of 75%.

State leaders and public health officials remain very concerned about the coming weeks. It is too early to tell if the Thanksgiving gatherings were scared. State regulators will review current limits and risk levels in two weeks, so the new limits will be in place until at least December 17th.

The numbers are steadily rising: the Oregon Health Authority reported 9,100 new daily cases during Thanksgiving week, the highest weekly total since the start of the pandemic.