SALEM — About two-thirds of Oregon counties will further loosen COVID-19 restrictions over the next few days, as vast parts of the state move forward with Phase 2 of Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan.
As more places start opening up for the summer, here’s what you need to know.
Which counties are allowed to reopen?
Residents of 26 counties will begin to see establishments loosen restrictions through the weekend. According to the governor’s office, the dates reflect the specific request county officials made in their requests for reopening.
Friday, June 5: Benton, Curry, Douglas, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Linn, Morrow, Union, Wallowa, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
Saturday, June 6: Baker, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Gilliam, Harney, Malheur, Sherman and Yamhill counties.
Monday, June 8: Tillamook County.
Which counties aren’t ready for Phase 2?
Deschutes, Jefferson and Umatilla counties applied for Phase 2, but remain under review by the Oregon Health Authority.
Seven counties have not yet applied for Phase 2: Clackamas, Hood River, Lincoln, Marion, Polk and Washington counties, as well as Multnomah County, which has not applied for Phase 1 yet.
Multnomah County is expected to submit an application Friday. If on track, Oregon’s most populous county could enter Phase 1 as early as June 12.
How were they chosen?
County officials submitted letters to the governor’s office this week requesting entry into Phase 2, confirming their counties met Oregon’s safety and preparedness benchmarks before moving forward.
Each county has to spend a minimum of 21 days in Phase 1, and see no significant increase in positive cases. The Oregon Health Authority analyzed county-level metrics to see if counties have sufficiently contained the virus, and if local health departments are adequately testing and tracking cases. State epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said that the state wants to see that county case numbers over the last seven days aren’t above where they were the week prior.
A minimum of 95% of all new cases must be contact traced within 24 hours, and a minimum of 70% of new COVID-19 positive cases must be traced to an existing positive case.
The state is working to ensure counties have the public health infrastructure to minimize the risk to frontline workers, and to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
So far, the Oregon Health Authority reports that hospitalizations are declining and testing is becoming more widely available. According to OHA, Oregon has the fourth-lowest case rate in the country as of this week.
So what does Phase 2 mean? Is that life back to normal?
Things still won’t be “business as usual,” but people will be able to enjoy more freedoms as a variety of establishments welcome people back for the summer.
Under Phase 2 guidelines, gatherings of up to 50 people can take place indoors, up from 25 people from Phase 1; outdoor gatherings can have up to 100 people. This applies to pools, backyard weddings and recreational sports.
Bars and restaurants will be able to stay open until midnight, past the previous curfew which was set at 10 p.m.
Larger venues will be able to have up to 250 people, depending on the size of the building; potentially opening up larger restaurants, and venues such as movie theaters and gyms.
Theaters and places of worship will still have to set their COVID-19 occupancy limits based on the size of the building.
Pools and spas will be able to reopen as long as they provide sufficient space for people to stay apart, and people who are part of the same group can swim together.
Recreational non-contact sports like tennis and pickleball will return to outdoor courts, and youth sports will have guidance regarding equipment sharing.
Indoor activities like bowling, arcades and mini golf will also receive specific guidance for reopening.
If I don’t live in one of the counties that were approved for Phase 2 reopening, does anything change for me?
The state has also instituted some statewide guidance.
Zoos, gardens and museums can reopen on a limited basis.
Officials are also working with universities to see how they can get collegiate athletes back to their training schedules in mid-June.
While these places are starting to reopen, this is still all subject to public health guidelines and physical distancing.
Multnomah County is still in a “baseline phase,” which means gatherings are still limited to 25 people for civic, cultural and religious events, and limited to 10 people for social and recreational gatherings. Residents must also work remotely to the maximum extent possible.
Do I still need to wear a mask or face covering?
Businesses must still require employees, contractors and volunteers to wear face coverings, unless an accommodation for people with disabilities or other exemption applies.
People riding public transit must also wear masks unless the person is under 2 years old, has a medical condition where it’s hard to breathe, or has a disability that prevents the person from wearing a mask.
OHA still strongly recommends that individuals wear face coverings in public settings like grocery stores and pharmacies.
I’ve been working from home — can I return to my office now?
Some additional in-office work is allowed in Phase 2. Remote work is still strongly recommended, but no longer required.
Can I go back to church?
Churches and places of worship may have up to 250 people if the size of their building allows people who aren’t in the same group to sit 6 feet apart from each other. This also applies to theaters and movie theaters.
What happens if there’s a resurgence in cases due to the restrictions being lifted too early?
Once approved for Phase 2, Sidelinger said that counties won’t move back to Phase 1. If a significant uptick in cases were to occur, the Oregon Health Authority and local health departments will focus on ensuring the county can trace the contacts of the cases, and that infected individuals remain quarantined at home.
What comes next?
Phase 2 will likely be a long-lasting step of Oregon’s reopening plan.
Health officials say that counties won’t see Phase 3 until at least September — and possibly further — until a reliable treatment or vaccine is available. People will be able to attend major concerts, conventions, live-audience sports and other gatherings deemed high-risk once Phase 3 starts.
For now, face coverings, regular handwashing and distanced seating will be a part of daily life through the summer. And maybe a lot longer.