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The good and the bad of reopening Oregon's counties

Marion County is hopeful as it entered it's first day of phase one. In Central Oregon, Deschutes County is a week in and saw an up tick in COVID cases.

PORTLAND, Ore — Marion and Polk counties are the latest to join Oregon’s list of areas coming back to life after COVID-19 lockdowns.

In the small town of Stayton, Cari Sessums bustles about in the Covered Bridge Café.

“This is our first day. Literally. The coffee pots didn’t want to work, they said, 'We haven’t been on in 9 weeks, now you want us to make coffee?' So normal restaurant hiccups for sure,” she said with a laugh.

As the café owner, its good to be back with customers. The café remained open for take-out orders during the lockdown but business dropped to half the normal volume.

Friday, she showed off the dining area with tables carefully spaced six feet apart. And a separate room used for cleaning.

“So this is the sanitation area, all of our tables service, coffees, our sugars, ketchup, salt and peppers and menus get disinfected in between each customer. And there’s Brenda, our social distance person,” she said with a wave.

Cari is one of many small business owners who wondered how they would survive under COVID-19 restrictions—but now she’s feeling a bit of hope.

“It’s a huge relief. We are so grateful to our community. They have stood by us, they’re standing by us today. People are so delighted to be able to sit down and enjoy a meal and visit with each other,” she said.

In Deschutes County, the feeling is more like concern, after 26 new COVID cases in just the last week since the county opened.

Its an increase from 91 to 117 people, a 24-percent jump overall—and an increase of 46 percent in people 29 years and younger who are infected.

Pictures from last weekend showed lots of people gathering for food and other attractions.

“What we’re seeing now in some of our cases is more out of the household interactions. So people are interacting with multiple different households or community members which indicates to us there’s more potential for spread of COVID-19,” said Morgan Emerson, from Deschutes County Health Services.

On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, the county warns to keep your distance.

“As we head into the weekend we are asking our community and our businesses to follow the safety practices set out in the guidelines and to make safe choices this weekend. Don’t have large multi-household gatherings. Save those for next year,” said Emerson.

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