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Oregon's More Populous Counties Begin Applying To Reopen

Staying at home can get frustrating, but many people are enjoying spending more time with their loved ones.
Kristian Foden Vencil/OPB
Staying at home can get frustrating, but many people are enjoying spending more time with their loved ones.

Most Oregon counties have started reopening under Phase 1 of the state’s coronavirus rules. Now the most populous counties are preparing to apply to do so, as well.

Clackamas County documents detail its plan to apply Friday for reopening. The county reports that its emergency departments have seen a two-week decline in coronavirus cases, and visits for flu-like symptoms are below average for this time of year.

Once approved, Clackamas County plans to open businesses, restaurants, bars, hair salons, churches, theaters, and health clubs. But rules require those places to limit capacities and adhere to physical distancing restrictions.

If the county continues meeting state public health requirements, it plans to request Phase 2 reopening in the middle of June. But it said concerts, conventions, festivals and sporting events won’t be possible until reliable treatment or prevention of COVID-19 is available.

Washington County has pushed up its reopening plans from mid-June to June 1st.

Public Health Manager Tricia Mortell said they’re hiring contact tracers as required by the state, and hope to have the positions filled by June.

“Reopening does not mean going back to life as normal,” Mortell warned.

“We will be seeing lots of differences out in the community during Phase 1. We’ll be encouraging all of the same good public health practices: cover your cough and sneeze; wash your hands frequently; wear face coverings when in public; stay home when you’re ill,” she said.

Mortell also said that if someone contracts COVID-19, then their whole household will have to go into quarantine for at least two weeks. That means they won't be allowed out, even for grocery shopping. They’ll have to order food online or have a friend deliver. She said accommodations will be made for people who can’t afford online delivery.

Multnomah County does not appear to be as close to Phase 1 reopening. At a meeting Tuesday, staff indicated more work needs to be done to meet state requirements.

For example, some local hospitals are facing a lack of protective gowns, suits and test swabs. The county also needs more personal protection equipment for first responders and to hire more contact tracing staff.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.