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The 15 counties will move into the Extreme Risk category for at least three weeks on Friday, April 30.

COURTESY GRAPHIC: OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY - The daily number of COVID-19 cases in Oregon has been rising steadily since March; even as more and more Oregonians are getting vaccinated. Health officials fear many residents have begun ignoring safety efforts such as wearing masks and social distancing, thinking the pandemic had ended.Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is banning indoor dining and increasing limits on other gatherings in 15 counties — including Multnomah and Clackamas counties — on Friday, April 30. They will remain in the Extreme Risk category for up to three weeks and maybe longer.

The announcement was supported by health professionals but criticized by business organizations.

Brown's decision is intended to slow the surging spread of COVID-19 that pushed hospitalizations over 300 on Monday, a figure the governor previously said would result in more counties being moved into the Extreme Risk category. Restrictions in those counties include a ban on indoor dining, strict limits on attendance at gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, museums and swimming pools. Religious institutions will be asked to voluntarily limit indoor attendance to 25% or 100 people, whichever is smaller.

In addition, nine counties will be in the High Risk level, four at Moderate Risk, and eight at Lower Risk.PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at a previous COVID-19 press conference.

"If we don't act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19," Brown said on Tuesday, April 27. "Today's announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher. With new COVID-19 variants widespread in so many of our communities, it will take all of us working together to bring this back under control."

The decision was supported by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

"Oregon has among the lowest overall case counts and deaths of all states, but our cases are now growing faster than almost any other state. We can't let our guard down now. We support the Governor in making tough choices to control the virus in our communities and get us safely through this pandemic. These choices have been necessary, but wrenching, especially for Oregon's small businesses and we all need to support them in recovery. If the pace of vaccination continues, we will get through this together and expect to return to a summer with a more normal level of business and recreational activity," said President & CEO Becky Hultberg.

The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association accused Brown of unfairly targeting restaurants and bars when there is no proof they are spreading COVID-19.

"The move by the Governor's Office is tone deaf and offensive to tens of thousands of Oregonians working in restaurants and bars across our state attempting to pay their bills. COVID-19 closures and restrictions on indoor dining are clobbering Oregon's restaurants, bars and hospitality sector. We've seen more than 1,000 close because of the pandemic recession. The uncertainty and arbitrary nature of targeting restaurants has made it impossible for these local businesses to plan during a time when they're already struggling to survive," said President and CEO Jason Brandt.

Oregon Business & Industry agreed some businesses will close for good, and urged Brown and the Legislature to provide emergency relief as soon as possible.

"We absolutely share the governor's concern about rising COVID cases and hospitalizations across Oregon," said Sandi McDonough, president and CEO of the business advocacy organization. "The end of this pandemic is in sight, and all of us need to continue practicing safety measures, including getting fully vaccinated, so we can put this difficult crisis behind us and return to normal life

"That said, every time businesses are forced to close, we know there are some that cannot sustain the financial blow and will have no choice but to close their doors for good. Empty storefronts on main streets across our state are proof of the devastating impact of forced business closures over the last 13 months. These latest closures — with little time for the businesses to prepare — are one more setback to business owners who have followed all the rules, keeping their customers and employees safe for more than a year. Families will again suffer economic hardships as jobs are lost."

The Portland Business Alliance agreemd.

"Today's announcement is devastating news for small businesses that?are following guidelines. Many of these businesses have invested in major changes to their operations to safely welcome customers and are already working on a slim margin just to keep their doors open," Portland's Chamber of Commerce saud.

"We are hopeful that Governor Brown will carefully and regularly review this difficult decision on a weekly basis, so that the negative impacts to our region's economy are not prolonged. We urge our state leaders to act quickly to ensure adequate emergency relief funding is readily available?now?to keep businesses impacted?now?afloat during this challenging time."

According to the announcement, Brown is partnering with lawmakers to approve a $20 million small business emergency relief package to immediately support impacted businesses in Extreme Risk counties through the commercial rent relief program.

In an effort to speed up the return to normal business operations, county COVID-19 data will be evaluated weekly for at least the next three weeks, the announcement said. Any updates to county risk levels next week will be announced on Tuesday, May 4, and take effect on Friday, May 7. Counties that improve their COVID-19 metrics will have the opportunity to move to a lower risk level.

"The fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions is for Oregonians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and follow the safety measures we know stop this virus from spreading," Brown said. "I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families. My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy. But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated. There are appointments Brown said available right now all across the state."

Here is the complete list of counties and their risk levels, effective Friday, April 30:

Lower Risk (8)

Gilliam

Harney

Lake

Morrow

Sherman

Union

Wallowa

Wheeler

Moderate Risk (4)

Curry

Douglas (Moved from High)

Malheur (Moved from Lower)

Tillamook (Moved from High)

High Risk (9)

Benton

Clatsop

Coos

Hood River (Moved from Moderate)

Jefferson

Lincoln

Washington

Umatilla (Moved from Moderate)

Yamhill

Extreme Risk (15)

Baker (Moved from High)

Clackamas (Moved from High)

Columbia (Moved from High)

Crook (Moved from High)

Deschutes (Moved from High)

Grant (Moved from Lower)

Jackson (Moved from High)

Josephine (Moved from High)

Klamath (Moved from High)

Lane (Moved from High)

Linn (Moved from High)

Marion (Moved from High)

Multnomah (Moved from High)

Polk (Moved from High)

Wasco (Moved from High)


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