Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the public can stop holding its breath, as the tri-county region isn't entering phase 2 anytime soon.

MULTNOMAH COUNTY PHOTO: MOTOYA NAKAMURA - Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury is pictured here wearing a facemask for protection against COVID-19. Three strikes, you're out.

With three crucial COVID-19 benchmarks not met throughout the tri-county area, Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties sailed past the Phase 2 reopening deadline Friday, July 10.

Gov. Kate Brown had set that day as the starting point for accepting applications to reopen when, in May, she linked the three governments together for public health purposes.

But the three counties have reported an uptrend in positive coronavirus tests, as well as an increase in overall cases and untraceable cases — missing the targets set by the governor by more than 15 percentage points, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury says the public can stop ticking off days on the calendar.

"It's not a linear process, like you go to Phase 1, and then you go to Phase 2 and then you're done," she said. "We're going to be living with this disease until there's a vaccination or a cure."

The county's chief executive stresses that social distancing requirements and the public facemask mandate must be voluntarily complied with in order to stave off a retightening of the rules, which could re-shutter everything from bars to barber shops.

Kafoury also responded to the perceptions — fair or not — that joining the three counties together forced a shotgun wedding. Kafoury said the lack of geographic barriers means that many residents work in one county but live in another.

The three counties created a Joint Information Center in early March. Their top public information officers teleconference daily at 11 a.m., and the counties coordinate public messaging campaigns during a separate meeting each Friday.

"I think Washington County is the one that's struggling the most in terms of meeting the metrics," Kafoury said. "People assume that Multnomah County is the outlier, but each county is currently missing some key data."

Kafoury said Washington County has reported an uptick in new cases and COVID-related hospitalizations, which peaked here at 44 per week in the seven-day period beginning April 12, and are currently holding steady at 17 per week.

Multnomah County continues to experiment with alternates to isolation centers for those quarantined while riding out a case of COVID. Many are living in rented motel rooms, but Kafoury said the county can facilitate self-isolation at home, or even at a nearby AirBnB in some cases.

"I know it's tough on all of us," she said. "Our community has been suffering and I really appreciate all the work that everyone's doing."

Zane Sparling
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