Prohibitions on indoor activity at restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues resumed last Friday after the state listed Clatsop County at extreme risk for the coronavirus.
The county was downgraded by the state from extreme risk to high risk on Jan. 1. However, several restaurants and bars on the North Coast remained closed with the anticipation that virus cases over the holidays would push the county back into extreme risk.
Clatsop County is one of 26 counties that will be at extreme risk until at least Jan. 28. Baker, Coos and Morrow counties joined Clatsop in being moved to the most restrictive status. Two counties will be at high risk, two at moderate risk and six at lower risk.
“With four counties moving back to extreme risk, this week we are reminded that health and safety measures continue to be of utmost importance, even when we slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. “I want to remind all Oregonians to continue to do their part by abiding by the health and safety guidelines in place.
“Until vaccines are widely available with high participation rates, the surest way to open our communities is to continue practicing the measures we know are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, keep physical distance from others, avoid gatherings, wash your hands often and stay home when you are sick.”
Brown also announced that Oregon will expand the vaccination rollout to all people 65 and over after new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Seniors, along with child care providers, early learning and K-12 educators, will be able to get vaccinated starting on Jan. 23, when the state expects more vaccines from the federal government.
The Trump administration chose to speed up the vaccination rollout after criticism that the federal government was moving too slowly. Oregon’s vaccination rollout has also been under scrutiny.
“While this is an unexpected change in course from the federal government, receiving more vaccines is welcome news for states — and Oregon is ready to devote all resources necessary to ramp up distribution with our health care partners,” Brown said.
Counties with a population of 30,000 or more are evaluated for risk based on virus cases per 100,000 over two weeks and the test positivity rate for the same period.
Counties at extreme-risk have a case rate exceeding 200 or more per 100,000 people, and may have a test positivity rate of 10% or higher.
As of Jan. 9, Clatsop County had 259 cases per 100,000 over a two-week period. Test positivity was 6.5%.
The state recorded 103 cases between Dec. 27 and Jan. 9 for Clatsop County.
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited for counties at extreme risk. Gyms, indoor pools, museums, theaters and other entertainment venues must close.
Outdoor dining is allowed for up to 50 people, with a limit of six people a table from two households and an 11 p.m. closing time.
Outdoor entertainment, recreation and fitness facilities can operate with a maximum capacity of 50 people.
Indoor and outdoor social gatherings will be limited to six people from two households.
Grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops and shopping malls can operate at 50% of capacity.
Churches can stay open at 25% of capacity or 100 people indoors, whichever is smaller, and 150 people outdoors.
Businesses are required to have employees work remotely, if able, and close offices to the public.
Only outdoor visits will be allowed in long-term care facilities.
In anticipation of the county’s return to extreme risk, Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones and David Reid, the executive director of the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, urged the state to end prohibitions on businesses.
Jones, in a letter to the governor on Dec. 31, said that for restaurants and bars, “the ‘yo-yo’ effect of opening and closing every two weeks is overly burdensome logistically.”
Reid sent a similar letter to the governor and the Oregon Health Authority last week asking for evidence that supports the need for prohibitions on indoor activity.
Jones and Reid argued that until there is evidence to support the prohibitions, capacity should be the same as counties at high risk — 25% or 50 people, whichever is smaller.