PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Both Washington and Clackamas Counties have been added to Oregon’s “two-week pause” list in response to the rise in coronavirus cases in the region.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday four more counties would be added to the group: Washington, Clackamas, Baker and Union.
While on the “pause” list, counties must put a halt to social activities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The counties on the list must “pause” from Nov. 11 through Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.
In a statement, Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard acknowledged this would be difficult for residents.
“We understand this is disappointing,” he said. “But it’s necessary.”
Clackamas County Public Health Officer Dr. Sarah Present urged residents to act now to follow the pause’s measures.
“We understand people miss seeing their loved ones, and it’s more challenging to wear a face covering and distance when we are with people we trust,” Present said in a statement. “However, we are not going to contact trace or test our way out of this pandemic. The change will come when individual behavior changes collectively — that’s in our control.”
Washington County Public Health manager Tricia Mortell called the next two weeks “crucial” in the state’s fight against a COVID-19 surge.
“Our hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed, our public health workers are already overwhelmed, and we need the public’s help to prevent many more of our loved ones and family members from getting sick and dying,” Mortell said in a statement.
Multnomah County, the state’s most populated county, was put on the list last week along with five others: Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla.
“As we continue to see alarmingly high case rates reflective of sporadic community spread, now is the time to implement measures to further reduce gatherings and curb human contact,” Brown said Monday in a press release. “The Two-Week Pause measures are designed to reduce the amount of people we interact with and the frequency of those encounters. We all must continue to do our part to stop this virus from spreading, particularly limiting our social gatherings and interactions, or we risk further closures and restrictions.”
According to state officials, the pause is being instituted in counties with a case rate above 200 per 100,000 people over a two-week period, or more than 60 cases over a two-week period for counties with less than 30,000 people.
- Urging all businesses to mandate work from home to the greatest extent possible.
- Pausing long-term care facility visits that take place indoors to protect staff and residents.
- Reducing maximum restaurant capacity to 50 people (including customers and staff) for indoor dining, with a maximum party size of six. Continuing to encourage outdoor dining and take out.
- Reducing the maximum capacity of other indoor activities to 50 people (includes gyms, fitness organizations/studios, bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor sports, pools, and museums).
- Limiting social gatherings to your household, or no more than six people if the gathering includes those from outside your household, reducing the frequency of those social gatherings (significantly in a two-week period), and keeping the same six people in your social gathering circle.
Health officials are asking residents in these counties to treat the pause like Brown’s previous Stay at Home order, and to think of it as if it were a two-week quarantine and to try to interact with members of their own household.
The pause’s changes for restaurants in downtown have some owners worried.
Persian House Restaurant in downtown Portland’s windows and doors are still boarded up amid a tumultuous year in the city. First, business slowed down when the pandemic hit. Then, the city’s protests didn’t help. The restaurant has also had to reduce seating capacity because of their smaller space.
“So many businesses are already on their last leg and they’re already really suffering and bleeding financially and then to be in this, it makes it financially hard and then mentally hard,” Sara Houranpay of Persian House Restaurant told KOIN 6 News.
However, Houranpay said the restaurant is doing its part to curb the spread of the coronavirus by not offering indoor seating, even though it’s allowed under Brown’s pause measure.
“We really want to do our part,” Houranpay said. “I think if everyone takes these directives seriously, you know, it’s the best way we can not spread the virus as protection.”
Multnomah County’s Dr. Jennifer Vines is recommending residents limit their social gatherings during these next few weeks, and to “hunker down” for the full two weeks if possible.
“We’re entering a very dangerous period in terms of how busy our hospitals are, how much community spread we’re seeing of this virus and how many cold months we have yet to go,” Vines said.
The pause was announced last week after record-setting case counts for the novel coronavirus.
More than 51,000 Oregonians have fallen ill since late February, and more than 730 have died in connection with the virus. On Monday, the U.S. topped 10 million cases, with more than 238,000 deaths, according to data released by Johns Hopkins University.
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