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Reopening Southern Oregon Businesses Face Challenges

A shop on Main Street in Ashland, Ore, seeks clients as businesses begin to re-open after two months of pandemic-related closures.
Liam Moriarty/JPR News
A shop on Main Street in Ashland, Ore. seeks clients as businesses begin to re-open during Phase 1 of Governor Kate Brown's plan to re-start the state's economy.

More businesses are beginning to re-open their doors, after the state began easing restrictions last Friday after two months of pandemic-related shutdowns. For many, it’s a bumpy road.

Having your business abruptly shut down with little warning is hard. Trying to get it re-opened from a cold start can be hard, too.

Brad Hicks, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Medford and Jackson County, says his members are facing challenges, from re-hiring workers they had to lay off, to having to figure out how to stock up on required sanitation supplies.

"Most businesses are used to sourcing the products that they need in their everyday businesses," he says, "but they’re not as accustomed to sourcing PPE and hand sanitizer and smocks and all those sorts of things."

To re-open under Phase One of Governor Kate Brown’s coronavirus pandemic plan, businesses must comply with a long list of conditions and practices meant to lessen the possibility of new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Establishments serving food -- as well as hair salons and other “personal service” businesses -- have to meet especially stringent conditions. Hicks says he was impressed recently when he stopped into a local barber shop.

"They had all the proper equipment, they had masks on, they had people waiting safely apart from one another both inside and outside of their business. And then of course they were taking names and phone numbers for contact tracing," he says.

Personal services are required to maintain a customer log for 60 days so health officials can locate people who may have been exposed to an outbreak.

Hicks says many newly re-opening businesses are scrambling to comply with all the new requirements. He says there’s some concern that heavy-handed enforcement of the rules could make it even harder for businesses to get back on their feet.

He says he hopes enforcement of the new standards is focused more on helping businesses succeed rather than on punishing them for shortcomings.

State officials say their intent is to minimize the inevitable increase in COVID-19 cases they expect to arise as people emerge from isolation and begin to interact with each other again.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.