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Marion County reveals an ambitious road map for reopening many aspects of 'normal' life, including restaurants and bars

MARION COUNTY  - Marion County Logo, Woodburn Independent - News   Marion County has drafted a proposal that would reopen many businesses, parks and other entities on a limited basis as soon as May 15.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners adopted the proposal during its Wednesday, May 6, meeting and submitted it to the governor's office.

"We have submitted our plan to the governor, and now she has to review it and give final approval," Marion County Policy Analyst Chad Ball said Thursday, May 7. "The commissioners will be discussing our plan with her at 3 p.m. today. We do not anticipate an answer today."

The county proposal, titled "Community Roadmap for a Limited Reopening of Marion County," would unfold in phases with the first-phase goals aiming to open businesses, restaurants, bars, personal services, churches, theaters, health clubs and county parks by May 15.COURTESY OF MARION COUNTY - Marion County Public Health Director Katrina Rothenberger apprises the Board of Commissioners on countywide COVID-19 statistics during the Wednesday, May 6, meeting.

Gov. Kate Brown unveiled a similar three-phase plan May 7.

A county report issued May 6 stated: "In Phase 1, the roadmap proposes reopening several types of businesses and services, keeping in place sanitation protocols and specific limits on physical distancing, face coverings, and crowd size until public health monitoring shows it is safe to move to later phases. Hospital visits will remain prohibited at this time, as will night clubs and most large venues."

Commissioners stressed that local and county health officials collaborated on the report, and that the county's three hospitals all contributed letters attesting that they are well equipped to handle a surge in COVID-19 cases should one occur. They also emphasized that the plan is tentative and likely to be adjusted.

"This road map is built around a thoughtful, balanced approach for a safe, strong, sustainable Marion County," said Marion County Government Relations Manager Barb Young. "(The proposal is) basically a living document and will continue to change and evolve."

Commissioner Colm Willis underscored that the proposal comes with all health provisions surrounding the coronavirus intact.COURTESY OF MARION COUNTY - Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis discusses a reopening road map during the May 6 meeting.

"This is a community road map for a limited reopening," Willis stressed. "First and foremost on all of our minds is the health and safety of the people of Marion County. So I want to make that absolutely clear; that we are not rushing into something. … And we wouldn't be doing this if in any way we thought that this jeopardized their health and safety."

Commissioner Kevin Cameron said some health concerns have emerged as a result of state-issued impositions enacted to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The commissioner said he was on a conference call earlier in the week and health concerns were front and center, but perhaps not all health concerns.COURTESY OF MARION COUNTY - Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron discusses a reopening road map during the May 6 meeting.

"We have to think about health. We have to think about health. We have to think about health," Cameron echoed the theme of the conference call. "We do have to think about health. But (also) the impacts on people's health from losing their jobs, not being able to pay their bills, domestic violence that we've talked about because people can't get out of their houses."

During the meeting, county Public Health Director Katrina Rothenberger updated the commission on COVID-19 numbers, noting that as of Tuesday, May 5, the county had 575 positive tests for COVID-19 and 4,778 negative tests; 109 people have been hospitalized and there have been 19 deaths.

"We are happy to report that 200 people have recovered," Rothenberger said, citing weekly statistics issued by Oregon Health Authority.

Those OHA reports also show that Marion County, has the highest per-capita rate in the state, while county statistics show much of those numbers are reported in the north county in the Woodburn and Gervais ZIP codes.

"Agriculture is a huge need in Marion County, so we will work to support those congregate settings, including food-processing facilities, farm-worker housing and other group-living situations — nursing homes, correctional institutions — (to ensure) sufficient health care capacities," Rothenberger said.

Gov. Brown's office would have to approve the county's proposal, and the commissioners indicated there likely would be ongoing revisions, either prior to or after its implementation.

"Here in Marion County, we have some vulnerable populations that have been hit pretty hard by this disease, but we are very fortunate. When you compare us to places like New York or northern Italy, we are not in that situation," Willis said. "We've been very fortunate, and we're able to manage the infection rate, and we're going to continue to monitor it. And if it spikes, and we get overwhelmed, we're going to have to change things.

"This is a working document and we are going to continue to work on it."

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