Gov. Kate Brown dramatically revised COVID-19 benchmarks Tuesday in an apparent attempt to keep restaurants and other businesses largely functioning as they are, circumventing bans or severe restrictions on indoor activities.
Brown made a new claim that indoor eating is only banned if Oregon sees active hospital admissions from COVID-19 swell everywhere to 300, roughly double the current number, and if there is a 15% increase in average daily admissions per week over week.
Brown conducted the audits as cases and admissions have increased in recent weeks, with the state reporting 544 new cases and 33 deaths on Tuesday ̵
Brown has effectively created a buffer for companies that in some ways undermines her public messages from last week, calling for a renewed effort to curb the spread of coronavirus as part of a race to vaccinate more Oregons before coronavirus variants become too violent.
The change means counties of Josephine, Klamath and Tillamook will avoid moving into the state’s extreme risk ‘category, which comes with the heaviest restrictions on businesses, such as banning indoor dining and placing severe restrictions on the number of people in gyms and theaters.
These restrictions were originally created last fall to slow the spread of coronavirus. Other counties could also escape restrictions in the coming weeks despite rising rates, as long as admissions do not climb too steeply.
Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Brown, said the governor felt comfortable changing her criteria because Oregons were vaccinated against COVID-19 – something that was not true when she rolled out the measurements for business restrictions last fall.
“Hospital admissions are an indicator of serious illness in our community,” Boyle said in a statement. “By associating extreme risk with hospital admissions across the country, we want to ensure that we do not impose the highest level of restrictions when capacity in the hospital is not threatened.”
Oregon reported 163 active admissions on Tuesday. Oregon could climb up to about 300 admissions in May if the dreaded spring tension arises, according to modeling released last week by Oregon Health & Science University, which means restaurants can get at least a month’s suspension from banning indoor dining .
Large counties qualify for “extreme risk” and the strongest restrictions if they have at least 200 cases per. 100,000 inhabitants over a period of two weeks. This categorization triggers a ban on indoor dining and indoor visits to long-term care facilities, and gyms and theaters can generally have no more than six customers.
Large counties in the next level, “high risk”, can offer indoor access with 25% capacity up to 50 people, and indoor visits to care facilities are allowed.
Fourteen counties will now be in the “high-risk” section, including the Multnomah and Clackamas counties, with effect Friday. These metros in the metro area were downgraded due to increasing spread of coronavirus and some companies will see the indoor capacity fall from 50% to 25% as a result.
Boyle noted that backward-moving counties, such as Multnomah and Clackamas, still need to adhere to what he marked as “significant constraints” at the “high-risk” level.
“Now we need Oregonians to closely monitor the current health and safety measures and to be vaccinated as soon as possible when a vaccine is available to them so that we can stop the spread of COVID-19,” Boyle said.
Vaccines: Oregon reported 32,955 newly administered doses, which include 21,170 on Monday and the remainder from previous days.
Where the new cases are by county: Baker (4), Benton (11), Clackamas (86), Clatsop (1), Columbia (5), Coos (10), Crook (2), Curry (2), Deschutes (35), Douglas (7), Grant (9), Harney (3), Hood River (2), Jackson (33), Jefferson (2), Josephine (12), Klamath (21), Lane (41), Lincoln (3), Linn (17) , Malheur (4), Marion (36), Multnomah (68), Polk (10), Sherman (1), Tillamook (7), Umatilla (8), Union (4), Wasco (1), Washington (97) and Yamhill (2).
Who died: The state did not immediately provide details of the 33 killed.
Admissions: 163 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are hospitalized, down 14 from Monday. It includes 42 people in intensive care, the same as Monday.
Since it began: Oregon has reported 167,658 confirmed or suspected infections and 2,427 deaths among the lowest numbers per year. Inhabitant of the country. To date, the state has reported 2,031,252 vaccine doses administered.
– Brad Schmidt; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt