Marion, Polk counties approved for phase 1 reopening
Marion County has been approved for a limited reopening beginning Friday, May 22.
County sources said Gov. Kate Brown's office and the Oregon Health Authority reviewed Marion County's road map for a limited reopening this week before granting the approval on Wednesday. Marion and Polk counties were the only ones not approved among applicants last week, while Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties had not applied.
Polk County was also cleared for reopening on Wednesday. Clackamas County has submitted an application; Multnomah and Washington have not as yet.
Brown's office issued a media release Wednesday stating: "County officials presented revised applications to the Oregon Health Authority and the Governor's Office to confirm both counties met Oregon's safety and preparedness prerequisites for reopening."
Marion County Policy Analyst Chad Brown noted that the approved plan represents a collaboration of county and state health exprerts, leaders and public health partners.
"We are proud of what our communities and public health teams have accomplished to slow the spread of COVID-19. As we have all worked together to protect public health, we have also seen businesses closed and livelihoods destroyed," Marion County Board of Commission Chair Colm Willis said. "Our plan encourages businesses, churches, and other organizations to move forward in a limited capacity while continuing to protect the health of our community."
The Phase 1, limited reopening provides for certain businesses to open with strict stipulations of sanitation, physical distancing, face covering and limited crowd sizes intact.
Marion County has seen a higher per-capita number of positive and presumptive COVID-19 cases than other state counties, while local health officials have stepped up efforts for more testing and concentrated preventative efforts, especially in the north county where the phenomenon has been especially problematic.
The limited reopening news was greeted warmly in Woodburn.
"We have been waiting to begin the process and are excited for businesses to begin getting back to normal," Woodburn Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Zobrist said.
Last week Brown's office worked with OHA and the Oregon Department of Education to formulate a guide for reopening. The Phase 1 reopenings included restaurants and bars, gyms, personal services, malls and shopping centers. All exhorted to proceed with the safety precautions strictly observed.
"As we begin the process of reopening and building a safe and strong Oregon, I again ask Oregonians to come together and be smart," Brown said. "Reopening any part of our state comes with risk. This virus is still very dangerous, and it still poses a great threat."Please follow the safety measures we are putting in place to help these businesses reopen — we've had the best doctors and public health experts guide us on how to safely and gradually reopen Oregon. It's up to us to follow their advice if we want to keep Oregon safe and strong."
Ball noted that eventually, phases 2 and 3 of the plan will allow for increased gathering sizes and resumption of non-essential travel, nursing-home and hospital visits, and additional seating at restaurants, bars, and other venues.
"The county is required to remain in Phase 1 for at least 21 days, and advancement to phases 2 and 3 will be allowed only if public health monitoring indicates it is safe," Ball noted. "Throughout reopening, anyone who feels sick should remain at home. Additionally, high-risk individuals who are over 65 years of age or suffering chronic illnesses should continue to remain home as much as possible."
County officials further stressed that businesses and organizations that choose to reopen should follow state guidelines, which further encourages all individuals to continue the practice of physical distancing.
"In recognition that additional restrictions and guidelines may be needed as circumstances evolve, we remain committed to working with the Governor's office, the Oregon Health Authority, and local health and community partners to monitor progress and refine the roadmap as needed," Ball said.
For information about the state reopening process visit coronavirus.oregon.gov.
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