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Infection numbers soar as metro region prepares to ask Gov. Kate Brown to revise reopening criteria to allow for Phase 1.5

Case rates of COVID-19 in Clackamas County over the past two weeks were the highest they've been since global pandemic began back in March.

Last week, the county reported 151 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county's total case count to 2,990. FILE PHOTO - Clackamas County

According to Dr. Sarah Present, county public health officer, the state as a whole is currently seeing a surge in cases, but that statewide surge is only barely approaching record highs seen throughout Oregon back in July. Clackamas County, however, is setting new records for both cases and the number of contacts that tracers are having to connect with as they try to track community spread.

The inflated infection numbers come as Clackamas County and its metro neighbors prepare to submit a request to Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority to review guidelines for reopening. Two weeks ago, the Board of County Commissioners agreed that current guidelines from the state are too restrictive and will not allow Clackamas County or the health region to move forward with reopening. Both the county and the region have struggled these past three months to meet the six public health indicators laid out by the state. Currently, Clackamas County and the region are meeting only failing to meet one indicator — percent of cases not traced to a known source under 30%.

SCREENSHOT - ZOOM - Dr. Sarah Present, upper-right, explains the county and health region's performance on their weekly reopening metrics to the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners Thursday, Oct. 22.

The board directed Present and County Public Health Director Philip Mason-Joyner to work with their counterparts in Multnomah and Washington counties to draft a letter outlining the request of the metro counties to create a "Phase 1.5" of sorts that would allow further reopening of businesses and other aspects of the economy that currently remain closed.

County Chair Jim Bernard told the board that he spoke with his fellow tri-county chairs last Friday, Oct. 16 to go over what the public health officials had come up with so far and give feedback ahead of meeting again on Friday, Oct. 30 where they're expected to finalize and approve the the letter before setting up a meeting with Brown to discuss the request.

"I believe we're going to try on the 5th of November to sit down with the governor and convince her why she should go this way," Bernard said. "The state (Oregon Health Authority), by the way, seems very open to it."

According to Bernard, the request will not aim to call out specifically what types of businesses can reopen, but rather argue that if a business can accommodate for social distancing and meet sanitization requirements, that they should be allowed to reopen under a Phase 1.5 model.

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