Multnomah County has set the clock for the reopening of Oregon's most populous area.
The county aims to submit a phase-one reopening application to the state on June 5 — with a double-check of trends and conditions on June 10 — and, if all goes well, lift the strictest quarantine measures on Friday, June 12.
"My goal has been to keep as many people alive as possible, and together we've done that," said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. "Many people are more than ready to reopen, but COVID is still out there, so it's important that we have all the steps in place to ensure that our community is safe."
Phase one would not mean a return to business as usual under the framework crafted by Gov. Kate Brown.
Last call for on-site service would ring out at 10 p.m. inside bars and restaurants, and all manner of recreational, social, cultural, civic and faith gatherings would be restricted to only 25 people. Barbers, manicurists and masseuses will be required to maintain a log of all customers, and social distancing measures will still be in place at all varieties of establishments.
Gov. Brown has not detailed what phase two will look like, so far. And Multnomah County still has more work to do between now and the beginning of phase one.
The county's checklist of reopening requirements was updated again during the Wednesday, May 27, briefing, showing that local authorities now have the capacity to trace 95% of all new coronavirus cases within 24 hours, and have enough personal protective equipment for key constituencies at health and social service agencies.
"Because we have a 30-day supply for our key constituents based on our current request rate, because the number of requests have continued to decrease, and because the PPE supply chain is improving," is how Director of Emergency Management Chris Voss explained the criterion.
What's left undone is hiring 15 more contract tracers to bolster the 58 currently working the phones, ensuring those investigators come from diverse backgrounds and finding more testing sites for communities of color.
"We want to go carefully, slowly and thoughtfully. We know that once we reopen we will have additional cases in our community," Kafoury said. "I wish that we could declare victory and move on, but without a vaccine, we can't."
It's been more than 120 days since Multnomah County activated its emergency operations center and reassigned hundreds of employees. In that time the county has opened four emergency shelters and two hotels, served 150,000 meals, and collected 4 million pieces of PPE and 600,000 donated items, with 80% distributed and some remaining in stockpiles.
Multnomah County saw 41 new diagnoses of COVID-19 on Wednesday, prompting a cryptic message from the Oregon Health Authority about a yet-unnamed business with operations in the metro area.
Dr. Jennifer Vines, the tri-county health director, confirmed many of the new cases are linked to that outbreak.
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