ONTARIO, Oregon — An uptick in the spread of COVID-19 has several Oregon counties moving up to the extreme risk level. Malheur County is not among them but it will transition from lower risk to moderate risk on Friday.
“Malheur County moved into the lower risk level on April 9. We had been at moderate risk for a few weeks prior to that. This will be the first time going back into moderate risk since early April,” said Erika Harmon, Public Information Office for the Malheur County Health Department.
On Tuesday, Governor Kate Brown said 15 counties across the state will be going into extreme risk levels where it will prohibit indoor dining. At a moderate risk level for restaurants in Malheur County, indoor dining is allowed but comes with restrictions.
“For eating and drinking establishments indoor capacity cannot exceed 50 percent or 100 people whichever is smaller. There is some similar guidance for indoor recreations such as gyms, indoor entertainment venues like theaters and closing times will also be an hour earlier from midnight to 11:00 p.m,” Harmon said.
The surge in COVID-19 cases is a concern for the Malheur County health department as it continues to promote vaccination efforts.
“With 14 cases in just the last three days, we are unfortunately seeing the result of more people not following the precautions of wearing masks and avoiding gatherings combined with a slow-down in the number of people protected by the COVID-19 vaccines,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said in a statement. “The variants of SARS-CoV-2 are far more transmissible and are leading to more outbreaks and hospitalizations in both Idaho and Oregon. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of protecting those who are most vulnerable to save lives and getting vaccinated to prevent outbreaks. Talk to those you love about the importance of vaccination and call your pharmacy, healthcare provider, or the health department for help getting the vaccine to the eligible people in your life.”
The health department continues to encourage Oregonians to get vaccinated and follow social distance requirements such as wearing a mask and avoid large gatherings to stop the spread of the virus.
Harmon said the number of cases over two weeks would have to be 15 or lower to allow them to return to a lower risk level. The county’s test positivity rate would also need to be below 5 percent.
GOV. BROWN EXTENDS DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY
On Thursday, Gov. Brown extended the state’s declaration of emergency for COVID-19 for 60 days until June 28. The declaration could be extended or rescinded before the expiration date.
The extension is due to an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state.
Gov. Brown issued the following statement.
“We are in the middle of the fourth surge of COVID-19 in Oregon, driven by more contagious variants of the disease. We must stop hospitalizations from spiking, so we can save lives, help our nurses and doctors weather this surge, and ensure no Oregonian is denied vital health care. Tomorrow, 15 counties are moving to the Extreme Risk Level, with nine more in High Risk. Hospitalizations nearly doubled in the last two weeks, to well over 300.
“At this time last year, there was so much we did not know about how to stop the spread of this deadly disease. Now, more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregonians know the best ways to avoid spreading infection: limiting gatherings when cases are high, wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance, staying home when sick, and––most importantly––getting vaccinated as soon as possible. We just have to hold on for a few weeks longer.
“I intend to fully reopen our economy by the end of June, and the day is approaching when my emergency orders can eventually be lifted. How quickly we get there is up to each and every one of us doing our part. Over 1.7 million Oregonians have received at least one dose of vaccine, and over 1.2 million are fully vaccinated against this deadly disease. "But the overwhelming majority of our new COVID-19 cases are from people who have not yet been vaccinated. Younger, unvaccinated Oregonians are now showing up in our hospitals with severe cases of COVID-19. Right now, more than ever, as we see the path over the peak of the spring surge and down the other side, we need Oregonians to step up and take on the personal responsibility to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are the best way to protect yourself, your friends, and your loved ones. They are also the quickest path toward lifting restrictions.
“Today, I am lifting Oregon’s executive order for price gouging related to the pandemic, because the days of hand sanitizer and, yes, toilet paper scarcity are far behind us. In the weeks to come, as the number of fully vaccinated Oregonians continues to grow, we will be able to lift the emergency orders and state regulations that have kept us safe for the past year.”