Seating in the L.B. Day Amphitheater at the state fairgrounds in Salem on May 12, 2020. The 2020 Oregon State Fair was recently canceled due to COVID-19. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Marion and Polk County residents won’t be able to eat popcorn in a dark theater, stay out at bars until midnight or swim at the pool for now after Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday rejected their plans to enter the second phase of reopening.

In a letter to Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope, Brown said she paused approval for any county applications for the next week.

“We have begun to see concerning signs of outbreaks, increased cases, case positivity, and hospitalizations throughout the state,” Brown wrote.

DOCUMENT LINK: Gov. Kate Brown's letter to Polk County

It’s the second time both Marion and Polk have been held back from opening some businesses. When a majority of Oregon’s counties were approved for the first phase of opening last month, area residents had to wait an additional week before getting the green light to resume dining in, going to the gym or getting their hair cut.

The counties’ applications for phase two will be considered again in another week.

DOCUMENT LINK: Marion County submission for phase two

DOCUMENT LINK: Polk County submission for phase two

Marion County on Thursday saw its largest spike since May 16, with 25 positive or presumed positive cases.

The Oregon Health Authority’s guidelines to move to the next phase require no large increases in the percentage of positive cases out of total tests taken over the past seven days, more than 70% of cases must be traced to a known source and there cannot be a 5% or more increase in cases over the same period.

During a press conference Friday morning, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer, said Marion County over a week recorded a 40% increase in cases and increasing hospital admissions related to COVID-19, a respiratory disease.

Polk County had a 33% increase in new cases in the last week and half that couldn’t be traced to a known source, above the 30% threshold, according to Brown’s letter.

Polk County has had 108 people test positive for the coronavirus, 72 have recovered. Most of the county’s 12 deaths can be traced back to an outbreak at Prestige Senior Living Orchard Heights. Ten residents of the assisted care facility have died of the coronavirus, according to state figures.

Marion County continues to have the second highest number of cases in the state with 1,105 people testing positive or presumed positive dating back to the first case in March.  OHA data shows 387 people have recovered and 30 people have died from the virus in Marion County.

DOCUMENT LINK: Gov. Kate Brown's letter to Marion County

Oregon recorded its highest number of new cases Thursday with 178 people testing positive.

During Friday’s press call, Pat Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said information will be available in a few days about whether the virus spread among people who protested against police brutality in recent weeks.

“Today’s pause is a reminder, not a rollback” Allen said.

DHM Research released survey results on Thursday showing that Oregonians are increasingly worried about the state’s economic conditions but are divided on reopening the economy. The firm surveyed 900 Oregonians between May 29 and June 7. 

It found that 63% of Oregonians rated the economy as poor or very poor, up from 55% in March. While the survey found Oregonians are more concerned about the economy they are less worried about their personal financial situations. According to the survey, 49% reported being somewhat or very worried about their financial situation, down from 63% in March and 56% in April. 

According to the survey, 40% said it is urgent to open up the economy. However, 55% said it is not safe to do so yet. Responses to the questions differed greatly by political affiliation. Sixty-six percent of Republicans said opening is urgent while only 16% of Democrats shared that opinion. 

Responses also differed by region. Forty-nine percent of respondents in the Willamette Valley said reopening the economy was urgent, compared to 34% of respondents in the tri-county Portland area and 41% for the rest of the state.

The looser rules under phase two would have doubled the amount of people allowed to gather indoors, from 25 to 50, and increased the amount of people allowed to gather outdoors to 100.

Places of worship would have been allowed up to 250 people depending on if the building size could accommodate six feet of space between groups of worshippers.

Pools, theaters, bowling alleys and arcades would have been allowed to open with certain guidelines under phase two.

Sidelinger pointed to Polk County’s recent workplace outbreak as an area of concern.

Meduri Farms in Dallas had an outbreak which started on May 19 with seven people testing positive as of this week, according to the state’s most recent COVID-19 report released Wednesday.

The state’s largest workplace outbreak is at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem with 167 cases.

Correctional facilities and food packing plants have been areas of significant concern for virus spread.

In Marion County, Santiam Correctional Institute in Salem, MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, NORPAC in Salem and BrucePac in Silverton have had outbreaks. 

RELATED COVERAGE: Coronavirus cases climbing with no clear hotspot in Marion County

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