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Jackson County Commissioners Seek Further Reductions In COVID Restrictions

Closed business in downtown Ashland.
Erik Neumann | JPR News
A downtown Ashland business announces a temporary closure in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson County leaders are hosting a public hearing on Thursday for people to air their grievances about state COVID restrictions — even though the governor decreased the county’s COVID risk levels this week.

Jackson County has moved from the state’s "Extreme Risk" COVID designation to "High Risk."

Nonetheless, many county leaders want to see further reductions in the state’s coronavirus restrictions, including Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chair Rick Dyer.

Dyer says he wants the state to completely eliminate its guidelines for high-risk counties, then reduce the regulations for every other risk category.

“I think that that would be a reasonable and responsible and prudent way to address and acknowledge that the risk [of the coronavirus] has been mitigated,” Dyer says.

The board is hosting a public hearing on Thursday to collect comments on “the impacts to the citizens and businesses of Jackson County from the restrictions imposed by the Governor and the Oregon Health Authority’s” risk guidance chart.

Dyer says the board will send these comments to Governor Kate Brown’s office, “so she has an idea how Southern Oregon residents are feeling about the way the coronavirus is being handled as far as the restrictions — mostly, of course, on businesses.”

That’s one of Dyer’s primary concerns with Oregon’s coronavirus guidelines: the impacts they’re having on businesses, many of which are struggling financially.

“Some of them are on the verge of closing their doors and some of them already have,” Dyer says. “There's a real human toll that is taken when a business owner is seeing his life's work kind of slip away.”

Jackson County commissioners have frequently pushed against restrictions that are meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. One board member, Commissioner Colleen Roberts, has questioned scientific evidence around wearing face masks.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.