Douglas County will move up to the “extreme risk” category of COVID-19 regulations Friday.
The county has been in the lower “high risk” category since Jan. 1, but with cases climbing, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that the county will move back into “extreme risk,” forcing some businesses to close or limit occupancy.
According to a data report from the state on weekly county metrics, Douglas County had 358 total cases, or 318.9 cases per 100,000 residents, between Feb. 7 and Feb. 20. It needed to remain at or below 200 per 100,000 cases over that period to remain in the high risk level.
While Douglas County’s risk level has increased, the governor noted many counties have improved. The county is just one of five counties that will be at the extreme risk level, down from 14 two weeks ago. Douglas will join Benton, Coos, Jefferson and Josephine Counties at the extreme risk level.
Eleven counties will be at high risk, 10 at moderate risk and 10 at lower risk.
“For the second time in a row, we are seeing great progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon and saving lives. Oregonians continue to step up and make smart choices,” the governor said.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners said in a statement they are concerned about the recent surge in cases and dismayed to learn that case counts prompted the shift.
They said the change will be felt most by the county’s small local businesses like restaurants, bars and gyms, even though the most recent rash of cases have been reported at other places like long-term care facilities, churches and schools.
Over the last two weeks, they said, restaurants, bars and gyms accounted for less than 1% of cases here.
“The State’s new mandated program undeservedly punishes and brutally affects our local businesses ability to operate and stay financially stable during this pandemic,” the commissioners said.
They said they stand with local citizens and businesses.
“While Douglas County currently has no ability to shield or protect our businesses from state sanctions, penalties and fines, we are here to help in any way we can,” they said.
They encouraged local businesses to protect themselves and their customers by taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
But they said the county will continue its policy of giving information rather than enforcing state mandated rules.
“We cannot in good conscience, condone citing or potentially arresting people for trying to make an honest living,” they said.
The risk level lasts for two weeks, after which the counties will be reassessed. This is the first time Douglas County has been in extreme risk since Jan. 1.
Here are the rules that will be in effect under the extreme risk level beginning Friday:
- Bars and restaurants will no longer be able to offer indoor dining, but can offer outdoor dining and takeout. Outdoor dining capacity is reduced from 75 to 50.
- The maximum number of people inside a church reduces from 150 to 100, and the maximum outdoors from 200 to 150. For small indoor spaces, the upper limit remains 25% occupancy.
- Indoor gyms, pools, museums, theaters and fitness centers drop from 25% occupancy or a maximum 50 clients at a time to a maximum of six clients. Establishments smaller than 500 square feet can have no more than one client and one employee inside at a time.
- Outdoor pools will drop from a maximum 75 people to 50.
- Zoos drop from 75 to 50 maximum people.
- Outdoor full contact sports will continue to be allowed, though the maximum will drop from 75 to 50.
- Social and at-home gatherings outdoors drop from a maximum of eight people to a maximum of six. Indoors, the maximum six stays the same.
- Offices will now be required to go to remote work if able and offices will be closed to the pubic.
- Some things will remain the same. Grocery stores and pharmacies, for example, continue at a maximum of 50% capacity, with curbside pick-up encouraged.
- Malls and retail stores continue at 50% occupancy.
- Hair salons can continue to operate. Tattoos and piercing are still allowed.
- Outdoor activities like hiking and camping also continue to be allowed.
The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported 34 new cases Tuesday and no new deaths.
Nineteen county residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 15 locally and four out of the area.
Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority reported 528 new cases and eight new deaths Tuesday.