Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown today announced updates to county risk levels under the state’s public health framework.
With hospitalizations rising above 300 people statewide, threatening to overwhelm doctors and nurses, 15 counties, including Columbia, will move to the Extreme Risk level effective Friday, April 30 through Thursday, May 6.
In addition, nine counties will be in the High Risk level, four at Moderate Risk, and eight at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.
“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” Brown said. “Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher. With new COVID-19 variants widespread in so many of our communities, it will take all of us working together to bring this back under control.”
Brown is partnering with lawmakers to approve a $20 million small business emergency relief package to immediately support impacted businesses in Extreme Risk counties through the commercial rent relief program.
In an effort to speed up the return to normal business operations, county COVID-19 data will be evaluated weekly for at least the next three weeks. Any updates to county risk levels next week will be announced on Tuesday, May 4 and take effect on Friday, May 7. Counties that improve their COVID-19 metrics will have the opportunity to move to a lower risk level. Counties will remain in Extreme Risk for a maximum of three weeks.
“The fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions is for Oregonians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and follow the safety measures we know stop this virus from spreading," Brown said. "I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families. My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy. But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated. There are appointments available right now all across the state.”
Governor partnering with Legislature for $20 million for immediate aid to businesses in Extreme Risk counties, announces updates to outdoor capacity limits
After conversations with legislative leaders, Brown said she is confident the state can move quickly to bring relief to businesses and their employees in Extreme Risk counties.
"The vast majority of Oregon businesses have followed our health and safety guidance to protect Oregonians from COVID-19, even though doing so has come with an economic cost," Brown said. "This emergency aid will help businesses in Extreme Risk counties.”
In addition, the Governor announced that outdoor capacity limits for bars, restaurants, and other sectors will be raised from 50 to 100 people in Extreme Risk counties, with health and safety measures, including physical distancing, in place.
“We know that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower outdoors," Brown said. "I am urging all Oregonians, if you choose to gather with others, keep it outdoors. Indoor transmission is a key driver in the COVID-19 surge that is making renewed health and safety restrictions necessary.”
The Oregon Health Authority will also be working to align Oregon's outdoor mask guidance with the CDC guidance announced today.
Three-week limit placed on Extreme Risk level, Portland-area hospitals to closely monitor capacity
Under the Risk Level framework, counties move to (or remain in) Extreme Risk when they meet the county metrics for case rates and percent positivity, and Oregon meets statewide hospitalization metrics: COVID-19 positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the past week.
Counties will stay in Extreme Risk for a maximum of three weeks, and will be able to move to a lower risk level sooner if their COVID-19 case rates are brought down in the intervening weeks, or if Oregon moves below 300 statewide hospitalizations or the seven-day hospitalization average percent increase goes below 15 percent.
Brown said she has also worked in partnership with Portland metro-area hospitals to ensure systems are in place to closely monitor and manage hospital capacity. Health systems in the Portland area are using the coordinated system developed at the beginning of the pandemic to manage hospital surge capacity, bed space, essential services, and non-urgent procedures as needed over the next three weeks in order to preserve hospital beds and critical care capacity.
“I want to thank hospital and health care leaders for the work they are doing to manage hospital bed space, so that no Oregonian is turned away from receiving the health care they need," Brown said. "Now, I am asking Oregonians to do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities so we can help support our nurses, doctors, and frontline health care workers.”
Brown has asked hospital leaders to alert the Governor’s Office and OHA immediately if additional measures are needed to preserve hospital capacity.
If, after three weeks, Oregon still exceeds statewide hospitalization metrics and one or more counties still meet the case rates and percent positivity for Extreme Risk, the Oregon Health Authority will evaluate why and make recommendations to the Governor’s Office.