For the first time ever, Douglas County will drop to the moderate risk category for COVID-19 restrictions on Friday.
Douglas County was initially placed in the extreme risk level when the levels were first put in place in December. It has fluctuated between high and extreme risk ever since.
But while Douglas County received good news this week, 15 counties in the state were put on notice that they will be bumped up to extreme risk on Friday. That’s a risk level that had been eliminated in recent weeks.
But hospitalization rates are on the rise, pushing hospitals near maximum capacity. So state health officials determined that new restrictions were necessary.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the new risk levels on Tuesday.
She said counties won’t remain in extreme risk beyond three weeks. By then, health officials have said they believe vaccination levels will rise enough to turn the tide.
In Douglas County, case rates have steadily declined over the past month.
For the two-week period between April 11 and April 24, there were 103 new cases, or 91.8 per 100,000 people.
In the two-week period between April 4 and April 17, there were 121 cases, or 107.8 per 100,000 people.
In the two-week period between March 28 and April 10 there were 141 cases, or 125.6 per 100,000 people.
The county did see an uptick in cases Tuesday, however, with the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reporting 16 new cases.
Eleven county residents are hospitalized with the illness, seven locally and four out of the area.
With the new moderate risk level, restaurants and theaters in Douglas County will be able to increase from 25% to 50% maximum occupancy or from 50 people to 100.
Retail stores can move up from 50% to 75% occupancy.
Churches can increase from 25% to 50% occupancy at indoor services, though the maximum number will remain at 150.
Remote work will still be recommended, not required, where possible.
Outdoor gyms and entertainment will increase from 15% to 25% occupancy.
Indoor gyms will increase from 25% to 50% occupancy or from 50 to 100 people.
The county’s progress runs opposite to Oregon’s as a whole. The state is entering a fourth surge, the governor said in a press conference Friday.
Brown said she will now be updating county risk levels weekly rather than every other week.
Counties with higher case rates will only be placed in extreme risk if statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above 300 beds during one of the past seven days and there’s a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the past week.
Hospitalizations peaked at 328 over the past week and there’s a 37% increase in the average.
New risk levels will take effect each Friday.
“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 in a Tuesday press release. “Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher.”
On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 740 new cases and two new deaths.
Counties moving to extreme risk include Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Wasco. Nine are in high risk, four are in moderate risk and eight are listed at lower risk.
The governor said she will work with the Legislature on a $20 million emergency relief package to aid businesses in extreme risk counties.
Brown also urged Oregonians to get vaccinated.
“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,” she said.