Omar Hernandez, restaurant manager at Adam's Rib Smoke House, packs up a pick-up order on Wednesday, Feb. 24, as the restaurant readies to re-open later this week. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Kate Brown says she’ll give counties more time to improve their rate of Covid transmissions before subjecting them to more stringent pandemic restrictions.
On Thursday, Brown announced she was modifying the process for assigning counties risk levels based on Covid case rates. Last week, Brown moved Marion and Polk counties from the “extreme risk” category to the “high risk,” allowing restaurants to offer limited indoor dining and more people gyms.
Beginning next week, counties that have moved out of the extreme risk category will have two weeks to slow the spread of the virus before being moved back into that classification, even if Covid cases have increased.
According to a press statement, Brown made the change to give businesses more certainty and counties more time to push case numbers down.
Brown’s move came as the state’s Covid case numbers have been in decline. According to the most recent numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, 4.3% of Covid tests came back positive, roughly half the rate from the peak over the winter. The rate for Marion and Polk counties has declined to 5.8%.
Marion and Polk counties were moved to the high risk category last week. According to the most recent Oregon Health Authority numbers, Marion County had 141 cases per 100,000 county residents over a two week period. For Polk County, that number was 184 cases per 100,000 residents.
The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association welcomed the development as being particularly helpful to the state’s beleaguered eating and drinking establishments.
“We want to acknowledge the importance of this change and this response to our plea for changes to the 2-week rigmarole being experienced by too many Oregon restaurant workers and their families,” said Jason Brandt, president and CEO for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, in a statement.