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'We need to step carefully and cautiously': Gov. Brown announces which Oregon counties can start reopening

The first phase of reopening begins Friday, May 15. Gov. Brown has approved 31 counties for Phase 1 so far.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday that 31 counties have qualified to enter Phase 1 of reopening, which begins on Friday.

Two counties, Marion and Polk, were denied because they did not meet the criteria for cases and hospitalizations. 

Earlier on Thursday, Gov. Brown said applications from Jefferson, Morrow and Umatilla counties were still under review, but they were later approved for the first phase of reopening.

“Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the work that counties put into their applications," Brown said.

The only counties that have not applied to reopen are those in the Portland metro area: Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington.

RELATED: These Oregon counties have been approved for Phase 1 of reopening

The following Oregon counties have been approved to enter Phase 1:

  • Baker
  • Benton
  • Clatsop
  • Columbia
  • Coos
  • Crook
  • Curry
  • Deschutes
  • Douglas
  • Gilliam
  • Grant
  • Harney
  • Hood River
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Josephine
  • Klamath
  • Lake
  • Lane
  • Lincoln
  • Linn
  • Malheur
  • Morrow
  • Sherman
  • Tillamook
  • Union
  • Umatilla
  • Wallowa
  • Wasco
  • Wheeler
  • Yamhill
Credit: KGW
Map of counties that can begin first phase of reopening on May 15

Every county in Oregon has been under a statewide stay-home order for nearly two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The order was made to help prevent the spread of the virus. But with the order came the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for Oregon’s economy.

Before phased reopening could begin, Gov. Brown wanted increased testing capacity, adequate contact tracing plans and enough personal protective equipment for front-line workers. Last week, the governor said Oregonians had successfully flattened the curve of coronavirus cases by following social distancing measures and felt comfortable to potentially allow some counties to begin the first phase of reopening on May 15.

In order to be approved for Phase 1 of reopening, counties must:

  • Show a decline in COVID-19 or have fewer than 5 hospitalizations.
  • Have sufficient COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capability.
  • Establish plans for the isolation and quarantine of new cases.
  • Have the hospital capacity to handle any surge in COVID-19 cases.
  • Have enough personal protective equipment for health care workers.

Under Phase 1, counties can begin reopening the following sectors under specific safety guidelines:

  • Restaurants and bars for sit-down service.
  • Personal care and services businesses, including barbers and salons.
  • In-person gatherings of up to 25 people.

RELATED: Dissecting Phase 1 of Gov. Brown's reopening plan for Oregon

Counties must remain in Phase 1 for at least three weeks before they are eligible for further reopening under Phase 2. If there are significant increases in COVID-19 cases or community spread, the Oregon Health Authority will work with local health officials to evaluate what actions need to be taken to stop the spread of the virus. Stay-home orders may be put back into place, Brown said.

“We are venturing out onto thin ice, and we need to step carefully and cautiously," said Brown.

There has been a total of 3,479 known coronavirus cases, including presumptive cases, in Oregon since the pandemic began. The virus has claimed the lives of 137 Oregonians.

"I don’t think any Oregonian wants to backward. We all want to go forward. It’s all up to us. We’re all in this together,” said Brown.

Health officials said the proportion of positive test results have declined as the number of tests completed have increased in Oregon. The OHA said 3.1% of people tested the week of May 2-8 tested positive for the coronavirus, the lowest during the pandemic.

RELATED: Percentage of positive COVID-19 cases in Oregon is decreasing