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More Than Half Of Oregon Counties At ‘High Risk’ For COVID-19 Transmission

Staff working the drive-thru mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Portland International Airport, April 9, 2021, monitor people during their post-vaccine waiting period. The clinic is a joint operation hosted by Oregon Health & Science University, the Port of Portland and the American Red Cross. Kristyna Wentz-Graff/ OPB
Kristyna Wentz-Graff/ OPB
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Staff working the drive-thru mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Portland International Airport, April 9, 2021, monitor people during their post-vaccine waiting period. The clinic is a joint operation hosted by Oregon Health & Science University, the Port of Portland and the American Red Cross. Kristyna Wentz-Graff/ OPB

The number of counties in Oregon considered high risk for COVID-19 nearly doubled Tuesday. The state will tighten restrictions on businesses and public activity in 10 additional counties starting Friday as the COVID-19 pandemic’s fourth wave shows no sign of slowing.

Oregon will tighten restrictions on businesses and public activity in 10 additional counties starting Friday as the COVID-19 pandemic’s fourth wave shows no sign of slowing.

More than half of Oregon counties are now considered at high risk for COVID-19 transmission, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday. That means restaurants, bars, gyms and retail stores in those counties will need to limit the number of people allowed indoors. People in those counties are also ordered to limit private social gatherings to eight people or less.

“As we face more contagious variants and increased spread of COVID-19 in our communities, the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated,” Brown said in a news release. “Until you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors are fully vaccinated, it’s also critical that we all continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and stay home when sick.”

Baker, Clatsop, Columbia, Crook, Jefferson, Lane, Polk, Wasco, Washington and Yamhill counties are all now in the state’s high risk bucket — many of them jumping from “lower risk” the past two weeks.

Grant County, where the virus has surged as many residents refuse vaccines, and Umatilla County both qualified as high risk but the state opted to put them on a caution lap for the next two weeks.

Several counties, including Clackamas and Deschutes, qualify for the state’s “extreme risk” category. However, the state has opted to not use that highest risk designation since sufficient hospital space remains available statewide.

Just two Oregon counties — Union and Curry — downgraded their risk levels. See the full list here.

A little more than a month ago, risk levels were dropping as was virus transmission, even in the state’s most-populous counties. Businesses were gradually reopening and vaccinations proliferated, leading many, including Brown, to talk about “light at the end of the tunnel.”

However, Brown and public health officials have also warned for weeks that if case counts go up, restrictions would be reinstated.

Oregon is now seeing more COVID-19 cases than it has in months. As of Tuesday, the state was reporting close to 700 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus infections a day.

Thousands more Oregonians are getting vaccinated each day. More than a quarter of Oregon adults 16 years and older are fully vaccinated and almost 40% have received at least one dose.

The new restrictions take effect Friday. The governor will announce new risk levels Tuesday, May 4.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Bradley W. Parks