PORTLAND, Ore. — The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown Thursday to share their concerns over the governor's decision to once again impose stricter COVID-19 restrictions on businesses starting April 9.
On Tuesday, Gov. Brown announced that six counties in the moderate risk level, including Clackamas and Multnomah, would be moving back to the high risk level at the end of the week because of rising COVID case numbers. Clackamas County has been in the moderate category since Feb. 26.
In the letter, the board expressed frustration with Brown's decision, which will require indoor businesses like restaurants and gyms to once again reduce capacity.
One of the main criticisms in the letter is about the way in which risk levels are designated for each county: by the number of cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period.
From March 21 to April 3, Clackamas County reported 140.5 cases per 100,000. Anywhere from 100 to 199 cases per 100,000 is considered high risk, according to the state.
"As more and more have access and receive the vaccine every day, we ask that the risk levels determined by the state include other factors," the letter says.
For example, the letter says even though case numbers are rising, Clackamas County has been able to maintain enough hospital beds, intensive care unit beds and ventilators for those who need them.
The letter also claims that many of Clackamas County's COVID cases are contained to outbreaks connected to school activities outside of in-person instruction, such as small social gatherings. It states that "very few" cases are related to businesses.
"Holding back the entire community and demanding that hundreds of businesses reduce capacity – and place more people back in the unemployment line – is not sustainable and causes additional harm," it says.
"Please consider a region’s hospital capacity and outbreak sources before deciding to move a county into a higher risk level," the letter asks of Gov. Brown.
In addition to these suggestions, the letter praises Brown for reopening schools and applauds Oregonians and, specifically, businesses for the sacrifices they've made to comply with COVID-19 safety measures.
It also says with schools back open and businesses bringing in more customers, the rise in new cases should not have been a surprise.
"Holding back the entire community and demanding that hundreds of businesses reduce capacity – and place more people back in the unemployment line – is not sustainable and causes additional harm," the letter says.
The board also said it's concerned about Gov. Brown accelerating the state's vaccine eligibility timeline around the same time supply of vaccine doses is expected to drop, noting that Clackamas County and other highly populated areas in the state are behind in vaccinating residents who've been eligible for weeks.
The letter says Clackamas County is committed to working collaboratively with the state to fight the spread of the virus. It asks Gov. Brown to consider the board's feedback and recommendations to heart.
KGW reached out to Gov. Brown's office for comment. We are waiting to hear back.