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Some East County businesses are ready to serve more peope under the new risk category.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Multnomah County's risk level was lowered from high to moderate, allowing businesses and faith institutions to serve more people in person.

Citing a decline in new COVID-19 case counts, the state has moved Multnomah County from "high" to "moderate" risk, meaning the size of some gatherings and business operations can increase. But health officials continue to urge caution.

"We are still very much in this pandemic, and I don't want people to forget that," said Jessica Guernsey, Multnomah County's public health director. "While trends are hopeful, we're still learning about new variants and we could see cases go back up. "

Announced by Gov. Kate Brown, the downgrading of risk for Multnomah effective Friday, March 12, means restrictions will be identical to those already in place in Clackamas and Washington counties.

Businesses in East Multnomah County welcomed the change.

"Woo-hoo," said Amber Schumacher, manager of Bumpers Grill and Bar in Troutdale.

"We're ready for it, our customers are ready for it and our staff is ready for it," she said.

Under the tighter limits of "high risk," the Troutdale eatery has been serving the limit of 50 people indoors, has an outdoor dining space and has been doing take-out service.

"This means more business for everyone in Multnomah County. The 50% opens a lot of doors for a lot of people," she said.

But not everyone.

The popular Local Cow restaurant on Main Avenue in Gresham isn't big enough to add indoor dining spots and still maintain the required 6 feet of social distance.

"We were never able to accommodate 50 people anyway," Local Cow manager Lisa Bonniksen said.

But Bonniksen said she's encouraged by the trend of loosening restrictions and declining spread of COVID-19.

The Mt. Hood Theatre, which reopened March 5, could now double its ticket sales from 50 to 100 people. With 650 seats, there is still room for the required social distancing.

The change means:

• Outdoor gatherings can be as large as 10 people.

• At-home indoor gatherings can be as large as eight people, though they are recommended to come from no more than two households.

• Indoor eating and drinking establishments may host as many as 100 people or 50% occupancy indoors, whichever is smaller.

• Outdoor eating and drinking establishments may host as many as 150 people.

Seating at eating and drinking establishments may run up to six people indoors and eight people outdoors.

• Indoor fitness and recreational establishments may operate at 50% occupancy, though full-contact sports remain prohibited.

• Theaters, concert halls, museums and other indoor entertainment venues may operate at 50% occupancy or with 100 people, whichever is smaller.

• Retail stores and malls may operate at 75% capacity.

• Faith institutions may operate at 50% capacity or 150 people, whichever is smaller.

• Outdoor entertainment and fitness venues such as zoos may host up to 150 people, while full-contact sports are allowed at outdoor recreational venues.

• Indoor and outdoor visitation continues to be allowed at long-term care centers and nursing homes.

Said Guernsey, "We ask people to move ahead cautiously. Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. Meeting others outside is safer than meeting inside. Wear well-fitting masks whenever you are with people outside your household and if you feel sick, stay home and get tested."

The next assignment of risk levels will be announced March 23 and take effect March 26.

Teresa Carson contributed to this story.


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