Phase 2 reopening OK'd in Marion County; masks to be required
Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority approved Marion County to enter Phase 2 reopening, beginning Friday, June 19, county officials announced June 17.
"This important milestone comes at a critical time of need as families struggle with unemployment, businesses work hard to recover, and farmers begin their harvests," said Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron. "We're thrilled to enter Phase 2 and get public life in Marion County moving again."
Marion County analyst Chad Ball noted that Phase 2 allows swimming pools, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and arcades to reopen. Bars and restaurants are able to expand hours of operation to stay open until midnight, and social, civic and faith-based gatherings can meet in larger groups.
Some recreational sports can resume, including training activities within college athletic programs.
But Phase 2 also retains several physical distancing and sanitation measures for businesses and other activities to help limit the spread of the coronavirus as people become more active in the community.
The announcement comes as the governor's office also outlined some stricter measures for some counties, including requiring masks to be worn at all public indoor areas, such as grocery stores.
The governor put a hiatus on counties applying for Phase 1 and Phase 2 reopening last week as the number of daily positive and presumptive COVID-19 cases were spiking. The state saw a record 278 cases reported June 16, including 119 in eastern Oregon's Union County where an outbreak was connected to a La Grande-area church.
"I instituted the statewide pause because of the rising number of cases in both rural and urban communities," Brown said. "I did this to give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus and make adjustments to our reopening strategy.
"Since then, the Oregon Health Authority has continued to analyze data in the state, including the source of the growth in new cases, hospitalizations, results of contact tracing and other metrics."
Brown said after consultations with health officials and civic leaders, Marion will join Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Polk and Lincoln counties as jurisdictions where masks will be required at all indoor public spaces, beginning June 24. This step is taken as Marion, Polk and Hood River counties move into Phase 2, and Multnomah County moves to Phase 1.
"All three (Phase 2) counties have implemented timely follow-up on cases in the past week," Brown said. "While Multnomah County has seen an increase in new cases recently, the county has not experienced an uptrend in new hospital admissions, and overall hospitalizations remain well within capacity."
Brown said her office will take a more regional approach with regard to reopening decisions in the future.
"I will be grouping several counties together as regional units for future reopening decisions. This will apply to the tricounty area — Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties will be treated as a single unit in future reopening decisions," Brown said. "And Marion and Polk counties, which each include parts of the city of Salem, will also be treated as a unit going forward.
"Both of these regions include a highly connected urban area, making it difficult to monitor the disease based solely on the contours of county jurisdictional lines."
Ball noted that Marion County's roadmap for reopening was developed in collaboration with county health experts, other local leaders and regional public health partners.
"We're proud to see that our county has successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19 to the point where we can confidently move into Phase 2," said Marion County Commission Chair Colm Willis on June 17. "Today's success is a testament to the hard work and resiliency of the people of Marion County."
County officials continue to stress that anyone who feels sick should remain at home, regardless of the reopening. Hgh-risk individuals who are over 65 years old or suffering chronic illnesses also should continue to remain home as much as possible.
"We encourage all individuals to continue to follow physical distancing guidelines. All businesses, organizations and activities that choose to reopen should follow state guidelines, many of which are available by specific sector and type of activity," Ball said, urging residents to adhere to the face-covering recommendations and rules as well.
The governor said with the metro counties in Phase 1 and mid-Willamette Valley counties transitioning to Phase 2 reopening, the coming weeks will be crucial ones in the battle to stem the spread of COVID-19.
"The next few weeks will be difficult, and we will be monitoring the data regularly. We are much better prepared than we were in early March; we have increased PPE, much more widespread testing, and many more contact tracers," Brown said.
"However, if hospitalizations spike too rapidly, if the capacity of our health care system is threatened, we will be forced to revert to stricter rules.
"Our entire ability to reopen and stay open is dependent on whether each of us follows basic health and safety protections," she added. "Stay home if you feel sick, wear a face covering, keep six feet of distance, avoid crowds, and wash your hands regularly. We truly are all in this together."
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