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'We're almost starting over': Linn County businesses still face challenges but look forward to Phase 2

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown gave the green light for 29 Oregon counties to enter the second phase of reopening over the next few days.

LINN COUNTY, Ore. — Every county in Oregon except Multnomah County is at least in Phase 1 of the state's coronavirus reopening plan.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown gave the green light for 29 Oregon counties to enter the second phase of reopening over the next few days. KGW talked to businesses in Linn County, which entered Phase 2 Friday.

Activities like bowling and mini golf weren't allowed under the first phase of reopening. But Linn Lanes in Lebanon served to-go food and then opened their lounge in Phase 1, so they stayed busy.

"Our bowlers backed us and the community really backed us. It was pretty heartwarming," said Linn Lanes Bowling Center customer relations specialist Gary Heintzman. 

It won't be a clean game but Linn Lanes plans to open up their lanes again on Sunday after being closed for more than two months. 

"Our phones have been ringing off the hook all day today about bowling," Heintzman said. "I'll be glad when we get back to normal but I think it's going to be quite a while before we see our 'normal normal.' It’s been a challenge. Part of me likes that, part of it scares the heck out of me. We’re almost starting over, is what it feels like."

Reopening their bowling lines might be more like a re-rack.

Heintzman says the center has a whole new system for keeping bowling balls germ-free: when a group or individual is done bowling, staff will take the balls off the rack, bring them back to the desk, sanitize them thoroughly, then bring the balls back out. 

RELATED: These 29 Oregon counties have been approved for Phase 2 of reopening

People must also get their hands and fingers fitted in order to avoid testing out different bowling balls. Linn Lanes is labeling each bowling ball that's been cleaned with a "sanitized" tag. Moving forward, they will also only reserve every other lane to follow social distancing guidelines.

The governor's Phase 2 of reopening also means:

  • Gathering limits will be raised to 50 people indoors, and 100 people outdoors.
  • Indoor and outdoor venues, including theaters and churches, with 6 feet of physical distancing and other measures in place, can reach a COVID-19 occupancy limit of up to 250.
  • Offices can begin reopening and employees can return to workplaces with physical distancing and other measures in place, though remote work is still strongly recommended whenever possible.
  • Increased travel will be allowed throughout Oregon, though staying local is still recommended to prevent overloading county health systems.
  • Restaurants and bars will have curfews extended to midnight.
  • Pools and sports courts will be allowed to reopen under new guidance.
  • Indoor and outdoor activities such as bowling, batting cages, and mini golf, will be allowed to reopen under new guidance.
  • Recreational sports can resume in a limited form, under strict physical distancing guidance.

RELATED: Here's the framework for Phase 2 of Oregon's reopening plan

Margin Coffee Owner Gabriel Anderson says online sales and to-go orders kept them chugging along until people could hang out inside in Phase 1.

"Not much changes as far as regulations on cleanliness. We're still doing the same things there," Anderson said, "We have to maintain social distancing, we're still encouraging masks, we’re still doing that on our end as employees."

There were less customers inside Margin during Phase 1 and business was very slow to start. 

"Which was fine by us. We didn't want to rush right into everything," Anderson said.

Now, what's been referred to as "Albany's living room" can once again make room for more people, and provide a new sense of comfort.

All 29 counties approved for Phase 2 had to meet a set of requirements for at least three weeks during the first phase.

The lone county that hasn't reopened, Multnomah, applied for Phase 1 on Friday and hopes to begin reopening June 12.

RELATED: Multnomah County applies for Phase 1

But the big question: Will the massive protests against racism and police brutality cause a spike in cases?

"I did see many photos of face coverings. The events are outside. Multnomah County put out harm reduction strategies to minimize transmission during these events," Multnomah County lead health office Dr. Jennifer Vines said on Friday, "So, while I am concerned, we'll be watching for indicators as early as next week to see if it caused jump in viral transmission."

We asked if they find a significant spike in Multnomah County whether county officials would hold off on reopening.

"It's hard to speculate on what the scenarios might be. I think it would depend on the specifics of the situation," Dr. Vines said.

Oregon State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger says counties in Phase 2 will likely stay there for several months and probably into the fall. Counties can only enter the third phase when there's a reliable COVID-19 treatment or a vaccine.

RELATED: COVID-19 updates, June 5: 97 new cases, 2 deaths in Oregon