The temporary freeze Gov. Kate Brown implemented two weeks ago to curb the spread of COVID-19 is over as of Thursday. But new restrictions are coming as state leaders and public health officials wait to see if Thanksgiving gatherings added to the growing number of cases and prepare for the possibility of even greater risks over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
The new system is a bit more complicated than the freeze; it’s a four-tiered system based on how each of Oregon’s 36 counties is doing when it comes to tracking and testing for the virus.
How it will work
The bulk of Oregon — 25 counties, including the Portland region and much of the Willamette Valley, the Rogue Valley and Central Oregon — are now classified as “extreme high risk.”
Related: Sector Risk Level Guidance Chart
For at least the next two weeks, the rules in those communities will look and feel similar to what has been in place since the governor’s freeze took effect.
Indoor dining is not allowed, and social gatherings are restricted to six people and no more than two households. Stores are limited to 50 percent capacity — that’s less than what was allowed over the past two weeks.
Gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other indoor recreational spaces will remain closed. Indoor K-12 and college sports are prohibited. Some outdoor recreation, including outdoor gym classes, is allowed as long as they involve 50 or fewer people and social distancing rules are met.
Churches, synagogues and other faith organizations are limited to a maximum of 25% capacity or 100 people indoors, whichever is smaller, or 150 people for outdoor services.
Salons, chiropractors and other personal service industries are allowed to stay open with proper safety protocols in place. Nursing homes and assisted living centers can allow visitors.
Offices and other workplaces must make employees work remotely if possible.
Outdoor visits are allowed at nursing homes.
Looser rules for lower-risk areas
The guidelines are looser in places with less dangerous conditions. Some indoor dining is allowed in these 11 counties, as are some indoor sports. Stores and religious institutions are still limited in how many people they can allow in at once. Indoor visits are allowed at nrusing homes and assisted living facilities in lower-risk communities.
Only four counties — Gilliam, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler — are currently considered “low risk.” Even in those places, life is not back to pre-pandemic normal: The new restrictions limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer in low risk counties, cap restaurant seating at 50% capacity and limit stores to 75% capacity.
State leaders and public health officials remain very worried about the next few weeks. It’s too soon to tell if Thanksgiving gatherings will lead to a feared spike in cases. State regulators will reconsider the current limits and risk levels in two weeks, so the new limits are in place until at least Dec. 17.
The numbers continue to rise: The Oregon Health Authority reported 9,100 new daily cases over Thanksgiving week, the highest weekly total since the pandemic began.