SALEM, OR (KPTV) – Days after she warned the state that around a dozen counties were close to qualifying for extreme risk coronavirus restrictions, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that 15 will enter the guidance level on Friday.
Brown cited the “rapid spread” of the virus as the basis of her decision, according to the statement from her office.
Last Friday, Brown said Oregon was experiencing a “fourth surge” of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were nearing 300 patients statewide.
Brown said new COVID-19 variants are widespread and if she doesn’t act now, hospital systems and healthcare workers will be stretched to their limits treating these severe cases.
It’s been two and a half months since Portland experienced a shutdown to this extent.
Earlier this month, the governor made it more difficult for counties to go backwards. Statewide hospitalizations now must reach 300 patients—about half Oregon’s fall peak—and the seven-day patient average must increase by 15%. These two data points, an Oregon Health Authority spokesperson told FOX 12, aim to give enough time for policy changes to drive down hospitalizations.
In early data Tuesday, there were 328 Covid-positive hospital patients.
In her announcement Tuesday, Brown said the following 15 counties will move to extreme risk effective Friday, April 30 through Thursday, May 6:
- Baker (Moved from High)
- Clackamas (Moved from High)
- Columbia (Moved from High)
- Crook (Moved from High)
- Deschutes (Moved from High)
- Grant (Moved from High)
- Jackson (Moved from High)
- Josephine (Moved from High)
- Klamath (Moved from High)
- Lane (Moved from High)
- Linn (Moved from High)
- Marion (Moved from High)
- Multnomah (Moved from High)
- Polk (Moved from High)
- Wasco (Moved from High)
Here are the risk levels for the remaining counties:
- Hood River (Moved from Moderate)
- Umatilla (Moved from Moderate)
- Douglas (Moved from High)
- Malheur (Moved from Lower)
- Tillamook (Moved from High)
Only two counties, Douglas and Tillamook, improved in their risk levels.
“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” said Brown in the Tuesday statement. “Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher. With new COVID-19 variants widespread in so many of our communities, it will take all of us working together to bring this back under control.”
President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems Becky Hultberg said in a statement that metro area hospitals are prepared for a potential surge of patients, working regionally to coordinate bed space, supplies, and essential services.
Hultberg also said that while Oregon has among the lowest overall case counts and deaths in the country, cases are growing faster than almost any other state. If vaccination pace continues, however, she said Oregonians can expect to return to a more normal summer.
According to her office, “Brown is partnering with lawmakers to approve a $20 million small business emergency relief package to immediately support impacted businesses in Extreme Risk counties through the commercial rent relief program.”
A change to the determination of risk levels was also announced Tuesday: Changes will now be announced after one-week evaluation for the next three weeks instead of every other week.
The next round of county risk levels will be announced next Tuesday, May 4, and go into effect on Friday, May 7.
Brown’s office said counties will remain in extreme risk for a maximum of three weeks unless they improve. If, after three weeks, Oregon still exceeds statewide hospitalization metrics and one or more counties still meet the case rates and percent positivity for extreme risk, the governor’s office said it will have the Oregon Health Authority evaluate why and make recommendations.
“The fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions is for Oregonians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and follow the safety measures we know stop this virus from spreading. I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families. My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy. But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated. There are appointments available right now all across the state,” Brown said.
While extreme risk restricts restaurants, bars and gyms to only offer outdoor service, the capacity for such service will increase from 50 to 100 patrons.