Expect things to look a little different around Douglas County from now on, in the wake of Gov. Kate Brown’s Thursday announcement that 28 counties, including Douglas County, would be allowed to start what’s called a Phase I reopening.
Oregon and Douglas County governments announced details Thursday about what the reopening authorized under Phase I will look like, and when counties might have a shot at moving into Phase II.
Ultimately, the governor anticipates a three-phase process for returning to business as usual, but she cautioned that even those counties entering Phase I today will have a three-week wait before they will be allowed to apply for the next phase.
Brown said she knows many will be unhappy with the details of Friday’s reopening.
“Some people will hear these rules and see the list of counties entering Phase I and say we are still being too restrictive. Others will hear the exact same information and say we are moving too quickly to reopening the economy. I’ve been in this job long enough to know that I am not here to make everyone happy,” Brown said in a press conference Thursday.
She said her focus is on protecting the health and safety of Oregonians while understanding that job losses also have a negative impact on physical and mental health.
To obtain authorization for a Phase I reopening, counties had to prove they had a decrease in cases and hospitalizations, and that they had adequate plans in place to trace contacts of people who test positive and address any increase in COVID-19 cases.
Remaining in Phase I isn’t a sure thing. Brown said if counties see an increase in positive tests or hospitalizations, they could be subject to new stay-at-home orders.
Of the state’s 36 counties, three in the Portland area (Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington) did not apply to reopen yet. Marion and Polk counties applied but were denied, the governor said. Their status will be reviewed weekly. And Jefferson, Umatilla and Morrow Counties are still under review and have been asked to provide more information to the state.
The details of what would be allowed in Phase II and III reopenings are still being worked out, but according to the governor’s webpage, Phase II might include increasing gatherings to 100 people, increasing office work and allowing limited nursing home visitation.
The move into Phase I means that Douglas County residents can now gather in groups of 25, rather than just 10. That still puts most fairs and festivals, many of which have continued to announce closures this week, out of reach. Counties would have to reach Phase III before they’d be allowed to have large gatherings like festivals, and that won’t happen until there’s a reliable vaccine, Brown said.
And Phase I doesn’t resolve the complaint of some local churches who want to reopen their doors.
But Phase I does allow many businesses whose doors have been closed — most notably stores, restaurants, gyms and personal service businesses like hair salons — to reopen. Restaurants, which had been limited to takeout only, can reopen their dining rooms so long as they ensure social distancing is maintained.
Restaurants and bars won’t be able to offer buffets, salad bars, karaoke, pool or bowling.
Gyms won’t be able to open their showers or swimming pools.
These rules are among the many guidelines issued by the Oregon Health Authority this week.
Those rules also say restaurants and bars must limit the number of customers and ensure tables are spaced at least six feet apart and remove seating if necessary. Customers will sit at every other booth if seating is back to back. Employees will wear masks, and the establishments will close by 10 p.m.
Barbershops and beauty salons will offer haircuts and other services by appointment only and will have to screen clients prior to their appointments. When customers arrive, they’ll wait in their car until it’s time for their haircut. Salons will also have to keep records of their clients and employees will wear masks. Customers are encouraged to wear masks too, but it’s not required.
Childcare is being allowed to resume, with limitations on the number of children who can be grouped together in a room.
Residents of the counties that have reached Phase I are able now to travel for recreational purposes, the governor said. Several state parks have reopened along the Southern Oregon Coast, including the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, though overnight camping is still closed through at least June 8. A map of which sites are open or closed is available at https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=v.dsp_parkstatus