PORTLAND, Ore. — The top health officer for Multnomah County said it could be three weeks or more before the county can apply to ease many restrictions under Gov. Kate Brown’s plan to reopen the state.
The governor’s plan requires individual Oregon counties to meet certain criteria before they will be allowed to enter “Phase 1” of the reopening plan. Some rural counties with relatively few cases could start that phase as early as next week.
But it will be a longer road ahead for Multnomah County, Dr. Jennifer Vines told KGW on Friday morning. Vines is the lead public health officer for Multnomah and three metro Portland counties. She said Multnomah County will realistically need a minimum of three weeks before its ready to even apply for the state to enter “Phase 1” or reopening.
“I think it’s at minimum three weeks. Probably more like a minimum of four weeks realistically,” Vines said. “And we don’t know what’s going to happen between now and there. A month in this pandemic, things can change dramatically.”
She commended the governor’s plan, calling it a “reasonable road map” for Oregon counties. Vines said all the metro-area counties will be working together to enter a reopening phase in a responsible way.
“It’s really hard to say because we’re scaling up the work we do every day but on a scale we haven’t worked on historically and on a timeline that is fairly aggressive,” she said, “We want to get it right.”
When metro areas are ready to apply for "Phase 1" will depend on several criteria that must be met.
Counties and regions will have to meet seven prerequisites before entering Phase 1 of the reopening plan:
- Declining COVID-19 prevalence (by county)
- Minimum testing regimen (by health region)
- Contact tracing system (by county)
- Sufficient isolation/quarantine facilities (by county)
- Finalized statewide sector guidelines (statewide)
- Sufficient health care capacity (by health region)
- Sufficient PPE supply (by health region)
Multnomah County will begin advertising for contact tracers, an integral part of the "Phase 1" reopening step, next week.
The Oregon Health Authority said Thursday that it is safe to assume the majority of Oregon counties will be in a place next Friday, May 15, to begin reopening.
When a county has entered Phase 1, restrictions will be eased in the following four sectors, with the listed requirements included
- Restaurants and bars: Sit-down dining with 6-foot physical distancing requirement, limit groups to parties of 10 or fewer and end food and drink consumption by 10 p.m. and workers are required to wear masks
- Personal care — salons, barbers, massages: physical distancing, appointment-only, PPE and customer list required
- Personal care — gyms/fitness: maximum gathering limit; physical distancing and sanitation required
- Local gatherings – tentative: up to 25, with no travel
Restrictions lifted in Phase 1 for any county can be re-imposed if that county fails to meet contact-tracing requirements or sees an increase in COVID-19 severity or prevalence.
After 21 days of compliance in Phase 1, counties may be allowed to move into Phase 2.
The Governor also announced on Thursday new policies on wearing face coverings while in public:
- Employees in certain businesses where physical distancing cannot be maintained — including grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit, salons and ride-sharing services — will be required to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth
- The state strongly recommends that businesses where employees are required to follow those guidelines also put in place mandatory face-covering policies for their customers
- And the new guidelines strongly recommend that people wear masks in any public space, especially where six feet of public distance cannot be maintained
Washington County is hoping to reopen in early- to mid-June, based on meeting the governor’s criteria, according to commission chair Kathryn Harrington.
“It is important to remember that the Portland metro region, including Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties, has a bigger population and more cases of COVID-19 than other counties in rural parts of Oregon,” she said Friday. “Because the governor’s criteria for reopening is harder to meet in our county, we will be opening later than other counties.”
Here’s where the county stands on those criteria, Harrington said:
Washington County is on track to having the staff needed to meet the Governor’s contact tracing guidelines by early- to mid-June.
Isolation and quarantine:
Thanks to outstanding work among community-based organizations and the activation of a respite shelter in a former hotel, Washington County currently has the capacity to meet the isolation and quarantine prerequisite for new cases.
Under the Governor’s criteria, our six-county region must be able to do 30 tests per 10,000 people. We understand that the region has the capacity to meet this standard now.
Washington County has had declining COVID-19 hospital admissions over the last 14 days, so we are meeting this prerequisite currently.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and health care capacity:
Washington County currently has sufficient personal protective equipment for our first responders. We also have sufficient hospital capacity for a surge if cases increase once we reopen.
Governor Brown is also allowing certain businesses to reopen as of May 15 if these businesses follow specific protocols, including:
- Stand-alone furniture stores, boutiques, art galleries and jewelry stores, so long as they can follow distancing, face covering and safety protocols.
- Childcare, summer schools and youth camps, so long as they can meet specific criteria set out by the state.
The county’s reopening plan will be reviewed by the county board of commissioners at a work session on May 12. The public can listen on the county YouTube stream, but public testimony is not part of the meeting.
“I know this is a challenging time for everyone. I also know that this disease is having a disproportionate effect on those who are currently marginalized and historically underserved,” Harrington said. “We all need to do everything we can to reduce the spread of this virus by following the safety measures set out by Gov. Brown. Doing so will save lives and help our county avoid having to go back to closure, repeating the economic impact on our community that we’ve just gone through.”
Clackamas County also announced it is working on drafting a plan for reopening:
We understand people want to return to normal as quickly as possible, especially with Governor Brown’s announcement. We are working on the Phase 1 plan to submit to Governor Brown, but this is challenging due to our county’s size and unique make-up. Per the governor’s guidelines, we must first reach established goals with contact tracing, a decrease in the prevalence of the virus, and hospital admission data. We are at least a couple of weeks away from meeting these prerequisites. We ask residents to continue to abide by the governor’s order, to ensure the progress we have made against the virus is not lost.
It also said it encourages businesses to adhere to Gov. Brown's plan in order to help Clackamas County to reopen:
Thus, our local mayors need to hear from their businesses about preparation plans prior to planned openings. We must all work together collaboratively to avoid a future spike in infections.