Phase 2 feeling just out of reach for Clackamas County
Clackamas County's Board of Commissioners will wait until Tuesday, July 14, to discuss and decide whether or not to reapply for Phase 2 reopening under Gov. Kate Brown's and state health official's guidelines.
The 21-day stay on reopening imposed on Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties ends Friday, July 10, but all three counties are still failing to meet multiple indicators for Phase 2 reopening individually and as a region.
As of Thursday, July 9, Clackamas County was still not meeting guidelines on three of the six criteria — trend in percent of positive cases in the last seven days (upward), percent increase of new cases in last seven days lower than 5% (29%) and the percent of cases not traced to a known source in the last seven days lower than 30% (47%). The same three criteria are not being met by the region as a whole.
"None of us are particularly pleased with our situation regarding the restrictions that have been placed upon us by the governor," Commissioner Ken Humberston said. "I want to acknowledge that Chair (Jim Bernard) has been aggressive about challenging that, as well as working with Washington County to address it."
According to conversations held between commissioners at their regular business meeting Thursday, Clackamas County leaders are joined by their Washington County colleagues in wanting to be decoupled from the metro region on reopening indicators. The response from Brown has been less than eager to grant their wishes.
"I have called her on her cell, and I have pressured all I can, and her answer has been no," Chair Bernard said.
Commissioner Paul Savas noted that he believes the metro region as a whole will never be able to meet the current criteria set by Brown's office and the Oregon Health Authority. Bernard and other commissioners agreed it's going to be tough to get those infection numbers down without the total buy-in and support from the public to social distance, wear masks, wash hands and avoid large groups.
"I was in Lake Oswego last evening in Millennium Plaza and there were groups of young people, not from the same family, all the same age, walking around not social distancing, hugging, not wearing face masks," Commissioner Sonya Fischer said. "You've got to really help us with this because we risk going backwards. That's what I don't want to see."
Savas expressed interest in drafting another letter to Gov. Brown to express their point that using a regional lens is hurting Clackamas County unfairly. Bernard agreed they could discuss drafting that letter at their Tuesday policy session.
Commissioners also discussed again the fact that the county has received no help from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding due to being under the 500,000 population threshold tied to the bill. The city of Portland, Washington and Multnomah counties have all received those funds directly from the federal government. Clackamas County continues to track new expenses occurring from its COVID-19 emergency response operations, but has yet to receive any reimbursement from the state. So far, Clackamas County has spent about $5.6 million on coronavirus response efforts.
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