Indoor dining will return to Salem as region sees fewer Covid cases

Signs in the window of Brown’s Towne Restaurant and Lounge on Wednesday, September 30. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Beginning Friday, Feb. 26, Salem residents will be allowed to dine indoors, visit relatives in long-term care facilities and gyms can allow more people inside.

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday afternoon announced that pandemic restrictions would be relaxed in Marion and Polk counties after a steady decline in new Covid cases.

“While these county movements are welcome news, we must continue to take seriously health and safety measures, especially as more businesses reopen and we start to get out more,” said Brown in a statement. “As we see infection rates going down and vaccinations ramping up, now is not the time to let down our guard.” 

According to the numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, the percentage of Covid tests that are positive for Marion and Polk counties has been declining since the last week of December. Last week, 5.6% of tests came back positive and 4.6% the week before. 

In November, Brown enacted a statewide “freeze” that brought renewed restrictions to gyms, restaurants, retailers and other businesses in response to rising Covid cases. A month later, each county was placed in a risk category, which determined the level of restrictions they’d remain under until the virus’ spread slowed. 

Since then, Marion and Polk counties have remained in the “extreme risk” category, which includes much of the state. On Friday, the counties will move to the “high risk” category. That designation means both counties have recorded fewer than 200 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.

While restrictions will be relaxed for the counties, the masking and social distancing requirements that have come to mark daily life will remain in effect. 

Bars and restaurants can resume indoor dining but they can’t exceed 25% capacity or 50 customers. Tables are still limited to six people per party from no more than two households. 

Houses of worship and funeral homes can have an indoor capacity of 25% or 150, whichever is smaller. Previously, the restriction was 25% or 100 people. 

Theaters, museums and other indoor entertainment establishments can have a maximum 25% occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Previously, establishments 500 square-feet or larger had a maximum of six people, not including employees. 

Gyms will have the same capacity as other indoor venues. Indoor full-contact sports are prohibited. 

Capacity for malls and shopping centers remains at 50% and in-door social gatherings are limited to six people. For outdoors, that number is eight. 

-Jake Thomas