Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday evening issued a one-week pause in the schedule to reopen counties closed for weeks because of the pandemic quarantine.
Multnomah County was scheduled to go into Phase 1 of reopening on Friday.
The announcement came as the state reported 178 new positive cases of the virus on Thursday, June 11, surpassing the previous one-day record of 146 cases set just last Sunday.
"When we began reopening nearly a month ago, I was clear that COVID-19 case counts would rise. We now see that happening in several parts of the state, both urban areas and rural communities," Brown said in a Thursday evening press release. "As I have said before, reopening comes with real risk. As we navigate the reopening, we are carefully monitoring the capacity of our public health system to respond to COVID-19 cases without becoming overwhelmed. The noticeable increase in COVID-19 infections in Oregon over the past week is cause for concern."
Phase 1 reopening, allowing some restaurants and other businesses to reopen, was approved for 31 of the state's 36 counties in mid-May.
While much of Oregon has moved into Phase 2, nearly half of Oregon's 4.3 million population live in counties that are lagging behind.
Multnomah County, which includes Portland, is the only county that has not started the reopening process. It has applied to go into Phase 1 beginning Friday. Marion, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Lincoln and Polk counties are still under Phase 1.
The dreadful timing was not lost on Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, who's office has been working to get the county ready for the economic adrenaline shot of reopening businesses.
"This was not the outcome we anticipated when we submitted our application on June 5,'' Kafoury said. "I understand how difficult this is for businesses, employers and families. But the increase in cases and delay in reopening is a reminder that we are very much still in this.''
"In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly, I am putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days," Brown wrote. "This is essentially a statewide 'yellow light.' It is time to press pause for one week before any further reopening.
"This one week pause will give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus and determine if we need to adjust our approach to reopening. I will work with doctors and public health experts to determine whether to lift this pause or extend it or make other adjustments."
Beyond this week spike in cases, other factors played into the decision to pause re openings. They include:
• Multnomah County has seen an increase in residents admitted to the hospital over the last two weeks. The percent of tests that are positive is going up, in the face of increased testing. More than 40% of the new cases in the last week have not been traced to a source.
• Hood River County has seen an increase in new cases over the last week and is managing several simultaneous workplace outbreaks.
• Marion County has seen an almost 40% increase in cases over the last week and new hospital admissions COVID-19 for county residents has increased over the last two weeks.
• Polk County has seen an increase in cases over the last week and is managing a work site outbreak.
Current status of reopening and all guidelines are available at coronavirus.oregon.gov. Currently there are:
• Twenty-nine counties are in Phase 2.
• Three counties are in Phase 1 and have applied for Phase 2: Hood River, Marion, and Polk. These applications are being put on hold for one week.
• Three counties are in Phase 1 and have not yet applied for Phase 2: Clackamas, Lincoln, and Washington.
• Multnomah County is in baseline status. County leaders have applied for Phase 1, and that application is being put on hold.
Gary A Warner of the Oregon Capital Bureau contributed to this report.
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