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Gov. Kate Brown will loosen many of Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions: Bars and restaurants can open for outdoor – OregonLive

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Nov 26, 2020

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she’s loosening many restrictions she had placed just a week ago on bars, restaurants, gyms, stores and religious organizations in order to stem the unprecedented, out-of-control spread of COVID-19.

Starting Thursday, Dec. 3, many of Brown’s restrictions will be lifted in Oregon counties that haven’t been as hard hit by the coronavirus.

But most of Brown’s restrictions likely will still remain in place Dec. 3 in 21 counties — including Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Columbia, Marion, Lane, Linn and Deschutes counties. The governor has deemed these counties at “extreme risk” of rampant viral spread. The restrictions overall, however, won’t be as stringent.

Among the new, lighter restrictions: Outdoor dining will be allowed at bars and restaurants, and large religious institutions will be able to quadruple their indoor gathering sizes.

Brown is easing many public health safety measures despite the worsening COVID-19 crisis in Oregon, with November now the state’s deadliest month and hospitalizations at an all-time high. The governor has fielded public criticism and been under intense pressure from industry groups — including in the form of a lawsuit — to soften her restrictions ever since she announced them earlier this month. The restrictions are part of a two-week statewide freeze that is in effect Nov. 18-Dec. 2.

On Nov. 13, the day Brown announced the two-week freeze, new daily cases of the coronavirus were averaging a record-setting 900 per day in Oregon. Wednesday, the coronavirus’ spread had only continued to balloon, with Oregon averaging more than 1,250 cases per a day.

In response to a reporter’s question, Brown said the freeze wasn’t meant for the “long haul.”

“It is not a sustainable place for Oregon to be in,” Brown said. “I’m in the business of frankly saving lives, but also preserving livelihoods. And moving forward with these metrics, what we are trying to do is balance both things.”

Brown also acknowledged that it didn’t seem right to heavily restrict Oregon counties, such as Wallowa County, that haven’t seen many infections relative to the rest of the state.

“A one-size-fits-all approach did not make sense moving forward,” Brown said.

Starting Dec. 3, “extreme risk” counties will fall under the following rules:

— Brown will allow restaurants and bars to reopen for outdoor dining only. Capacity will be limited to 50 people per establishment, and group size to six people. State public health officials are still strongly encouraging takeout.

— Gyms will be allowed to lead outdoor fitness activities. Capacity will be limited to 50 people outdoors, per establishment.

— Religious organizations will be able to hold services at 25% capacity or with up to 100 people indoors, whichever results in a smaller number. Outdoors, up to 150 people will be allowed to gather. Brown’s restrictions under the two-week statewide freeze limit faith-based organization to gatherings of no more than 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.

— Social get-togethers will continue to be limited to six total people, with a recommendation that no more than two households gather at a time.

— Grocery stores, retails stores and malls will be limited to 50% capacity. Currently, stores are limited to 75% capacity, which has worried some health experts given that Black Friday and the crowds of shoppers it typically attracts fall under the 75% capacity limit and not the upcoming 50% limit. When it does go into effect a week into the holiday shopping season, this new restriction will mark one area where Brown is tightening requirements.

Multnomah County was supposed to be under a four-week freeze, set to expire in mid-December. But Brown’s newly revised plan will replace that freeze.

Public health officials will use COVID-19 numbers for Monday, Nov. 30, to determine which counties fall into the “extreme risk” category and are subject to the most aggressive restrictions. Currently, public health officials estimate that could be about 21 of Oregon’s 36 counties. A list of counties can be viewed here.

Other counties will be designated “high risk,” “moderate risk” and “lower risk” — and they will face varying degrees of lesser restrictions. A chart outlining the new rules can be seen here.

New restrictions

Gov. Kate Brown announced these new restrictions for Oregon’s counties, based on their levels of COVID-19 spread. They take effect Dec. 3, 2020.

Wednesday, Brown and other public health officials pleaded once again with the public to forgo large Thanksgiving Day gatherings and abide by a statewide order allowing no more than six people to gather from two different households. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken that a step farther and recommended that Americans celebrate the holiday only with members of their own households, and that they shun holiday travel.

“I promise you this isn’t forever, it’s just for now,” Brown said. Making smart choices will ensure that loved ones survive the COVID-19 pandemic and they’ll be here to celebrate next Thanksgiving, Brown said.

“These choices will get us out of this horrible situation faster,” she said.

Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said the state expects to receive its first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines in December. He said it will be enough to vaccinate 30,000 frontline healthcare workers, who will be the first in line to receive the doses. They will need a second dose in January.

Brown said there are roughly 300,000 healthcare workers in Oregon, so it will take a while to allocate doses to all of them.

Allen said Oregon probably will prioritize people living in long-term care facilities and essential workers, then the general population. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, estimates the healthy general public will start receiving vaccines as early as April and that it will take into July to vaccinate everyone who’s willing. Convincing a large majority of Americans to receive the vaccines could be tough.

Allen said “the end of COVID-19 is in sight” and it’s so important for people to stick with public health restrictions, such as keeping their distance from others outside their households and wearing masks, for now.

“Let’s not lose any more lives, especially now,” he said, “as vaccines become a reality, not a hope.”

Coronavirus in Oregon: Latest news | Live map tracker |Text alerts | Newsletter

— Aimee Green; agreen@oregonian.com; @o_aimee

 

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