Politics

Most Oregon counties remain in ‘extreme risk’ categories for spreading COVID-19

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
Dec. 15, 2020 8:46 p.m.

The majority of Oregon counties will have ongoing restrictions in an attempt to curb the virus

The majority of Oregon counties remain under the governor’s “extreme risk” designation for spreading COVID-19 and will continue to face ongoing restrictions.

The state has been classifying Oregon counties in different risk categories: from extreme, high, moderate and lower risk. County risk levels are reassessed every two weeks and determined by the rate of new cases a county sees in a two-week period.

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There are currently 29 counties in the “extreme risk” category, including all three Portland metro counties, Deschutes County, Douglas County, Hood River County, and Lane and Marion counties. There are currently no counties classified as “high risk,” only Lake County is in the “moderate risk” category and Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler counties are in the “lower risk” category.

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The new categories take effect Dec. 18 and will last through Dec. 31.

“We continue to see community spread across Oregon to the point that the majority of the state needs to continue with strict health and safety measures,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. “Until we reduce the spread and have high participation in vaccination, all Oregonians need to follow the guidelines in place in their counties.”

Every classification has different restrictions. When counties jump down in risk, restrictions ease slightly. For example, in high-risk counties, restaurants and bars can serve people indoors with limited occupancy. At the moderate level, restaurants can seat up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 150 people. But even at the lowest risk level, counties will face limits on what is allowed. Bars and restaurants can allow up to 50% indoor capacity, which could be up to 300 people. Outdoor venues cannot exceed 300 people. Retail stores and indoor places of worship area also limited to 75% capacity.

Over the past several weeks, Oregon has experienced a record-breaking number of patients seriously ill with COVID-19 and a significant death toll. Sick patients have filled emergency rooms across the state, pushing occupancy in some regions toward 90% and put a strain on the entire health care system.

The first doses of vaccines, however, arrived in Oregon this week. Oregon hopes 100,000 people receive their first COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year. Vaccines will be given first to essential workers, communities that have been hit hard by the disease and people who are particularly vulnerable for severe complications.

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