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Oregon lifts indoor eating restrictions because hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased by 14.9%, not 15%

To alleviate cash-strapped restaurants and residents desperate to return to normalcy despite a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that she will lift a set of “extremes” by the end of the week. risk ‚ÄĚRestrictions that have strangled businesses in 15 counties in Oregon.

What’s more, Brown said she does not expect to restore those restrictions again during the pandemic.

The extreme risk limits have only been in place in the 1

5 counties since last Friday, but the governor said Tuesday that they will be removed this Friday because one of her preset measurements was not met: The seven-day average of admitted COVID 19 patients across the country grew by only 14.9% – not the required 15%. The state also does not implement extreme risk factors in new counties due to this unanswered metric.

If the number of hospitalized patients had increased by only two people during the last week, the 15% requirement would have been met and all 15 counties – plus at least two new ones – would have fallen under extended extreme risk public safety measures by the end of ugen.

“Based on today’s numbers, I keep my commitment to Oregons,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “… I know this will bring relief to many throughout the state.”

Brown and public health officials linked the strictest business restrictions to three measurements: high rates of county-level coronavirus; state COVID-19 admissions over 300; and COVID-19 admissions are increased weekly by at least 15%.

Until Tuesday, it looked like restrictions would remain in counties identified last week, as well as a few others based on their rising local rate rates.

But a slight drop in reported admissions Tuesday – to 345 COVID-19 patients – slowed Oregon’s overall growth rate, meaning one of Brown’s criteria was no longer met.

Brown’s decision to initially place counties at “extreme risk” last week attracted intense criticism from many Oregons, even though admissions at the time had increased by 37% in one week. On Tuesday, she seemed to be struggling with her decision to remove the designation starting this Friday.

She first announced her decision before after 1 p.m. 17 Tuesday – several hours later than she has previously announced changes in county risk levels and restrictions. Officials had declined all afternoon to decide what changes would be made.

When asked if Brown was considering keeping restrictions in place or expanding them, Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor, would not answer directly.

“I think it is fair to say that there were internal discussions to review the data and discuss what it would mean for county risk level changes,” he said in a text message.

The Multnomah and Clackamas counties will now be among the 15 counties that have permission to reopen indoor dining rooms with 25% capacity, came Friday, among other solution restrictions, as the counties fall into a “high-risk designation”. Washington County, which would have been at extreme risk due to its rising incidence of COVID-19 over the past two weeks, will continue to be at high risk.

Brown said she does not expect counties to be designated as extreme risk again because of the growing number of Oregons being vaccinated. On Tuesday it was approx. 32% fully vaccinated and 46% partially vaccinated, largely in line with national averages.

“Let me be clear: Across the state, COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions are still high, and Oregon is not yet out of the woods,” the governor said. “… Vaccinations are still our best way to protect our loved ones and stay on track to fully reopen our economy by the end of June.”

Oregon’s fourth rise in coronavirus cases began in March, as did much of the rest of the country. But Oregon is among a minority of states that claim a national trend of declining coronavirus cases in the past few weeks.

Last week, new known cases grew faster in Oregon than elsewhere in the country. And while Oregon has had the third lowest number of known infections per year. Per capita since the onset of the pandemic, it ranks 12th highest in the last two weeks. New infections have increased by 16% during this period.

But over the past four days, the seven-day rolling average of new infections has fallen, and officials hope the tide will turn in the state.

Under the extreme risk designation, counties and bars in counties representing nearly 70% of Oregons were banned from offering indoor dining. Fitness centers, cinemas, concert halls, bowling alleys and indoor swimming pools were allowed for up to six patrons at a time. But businesses could service up to 100 customers outdoors at a time, a number that some businesses such as restaurants said did not help because they do not have the outdoor space.

The counties affected are: Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, and Wasco. At least two other counties – Washington and Benton – would have moved to extreme risk if admissions had grown by 15%.

Under the more lenient high-risk restrictions, companies – including restaurants, bars, gyms, bowling alleys, cinemas, concert halls and indoor pools – are allowed to operate with a maximum capacity of 25% or 50 people indoors, whichever is less. (See the full list of restrictions here.)

Jason Brandt, president of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, said Brown’s detached grip on the dining industry is “a huge relief for thousands of business owners and tens of thousands of workers in our industry.” Some owners, he said, had tracked the number of admissions and percentage increases daily.

Brandt added that with the busiest day of the year in the restaurant industry falling on Sunday, May 9, the changes will come with time.

“Just in time,” he said, “for Mother’s Day.”

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– Aimee Green; agreen@oregonian.com; @o_aimee

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