Owners and customers of Douglas County bars, restaurants, gyms and other places where fun happens will be ringing in the new year with a little extra joy and enthusiasm on Friday with word that many establishments will reopen for indoor use.
The reopenings follow the news this week that Douglas County has had lower counts of the coronavirus over the last couple of weeks, which in turn, prompted Gov. Kate Brown to drop the county from extreme risk to high risk.
Under the new “high risk” level, bars, restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys and other businesses can reopen to serve customers indoors up to 25% of their capacity, and a maximum of 50 people inside at any one time.
Sam Gross, owner of Loggers Tap House in Roseburg, had just set up tents for outdoor dining three weeks ago after that was allowed by Gov. Kate Brown. On Friday, he’ll be reopening inside, too.
“We’ll have both our inside and outside dining open Friday,” Gross said. “We’ll run things the way we normally do, just with fewer tables. We are quite excited and happy to be bringing all of our staff back.”
Gyms are also reopening. At the YMCA of Douglas County, staff are preparing to open the facility Monday morning at 5:30, said Shelley Briggs Loosley, chair of the YMCA Board of Directors. The outside classes that the YMCA started to accommodate members who could not exercise indoors will remain open, Briggs Loosley said.
“We are very excited to be open for our members. What a great way to start the new year,” she said.
At TenDown Bowling & Entertainment in Roseburg, co-owner Mariah Smith said the bowling alley and Splitz Bar & Grill will open for indoor business Friday. Smith said everyone is excited about the change.
“Even with the capacity restrictions, and continuing our health and safety precautions to keep everyone safe, and compliance with state guidelines, we are just happy to see our employees get back to work and of course to welcome customers back,” Smith said. “We are restricted to 50 people in the restaurant and in the bowling center, so customers may see some wait times.”
Not everyone who can reopen will. At the Roseburg Cinema, Vice President of Operations Daryn McLennan said the theater is in a holding pattern for the time being. Management will reevaluate the situation on Monday before making a decision on whether to reopen, he said.
“The big concern is we don’t want to open just to get closed down again,” McLennan said. “It just doesn’t make sense to open up for two weeks and then close the biz again.”
Movie fans should check in on the theater’s Facebook page for future plans, he said.
On Dec. 15, Gov. Kate Brown announced updates to county risk levels under the state’s public health framework, which is intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The framework uses four different risk levels for counties, based on COVID-19 spread — extreme risk, high risk, moderate risk and lower risk — and assigns health and safety measures for each level.
The risk categories, which run through Dec. 31, consisted of 29 counties — including Douglas — in the extreme risk level, one county at moderate risk and six counties at lower risk.
Under the current risk level, the majority of businesses are shut down or largely curtailed. Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited, indoor gyms and fitness centers are closed, as are theaters.
Additionally, retail stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and indoor and outdoor shopping centers are limited to a maximum of 50% of capacity.
Under the high-risk categories, a number of businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms, fitness centers theaters, museums and types of indoor entertainment can serve customers indoors at 25% of capacity, with a maximum of 50 people served at one time.
Retail stores will remain unchanged.
If Douglas County were to go to the moderate risk level, restaurants, bars, gyms and the rest could then serve up to 50% of capacity not to exceed 100 customers, and retail stores could increase to 75% of capacity.
November and December have been difficult months for the county when it came to COVID-19 cases.
In November, the number of cases rose from 387 to 963, an increase of 149%. The total number of deaths in the month rose from 8 to 19.
In December, the number of cases rose from 976 on Dec. 1 to 1,367 on Wednesday, a 40% increase for the month so far. Deaths rose from 19 to 39, a 105% increase.
To put those numbers in perspective, Douglas County had a total of 249 cases and four deaths on Oct. 1, which was more than six months into the pandemic. Two months later those numbers stand at 1,367 cases and 39 deaths.