PORTLAND, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown on Thursday called for a "yellow light" in Oregon's reopening process as several counties see a continued spike in new coronavirus cases — essentially pressing the pause button on a handful counties that have working toward a new phase over the last several weeks.
Thursday saw the state's largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began — in part due to expanded testing, but state officials have seen increased transmission rates as a sign for increased caution.
“The noticeable increase in COVID-19 infections in Oregon over the past week is cause for concern," Brown said. “In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly, I am putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days. This is essentially a statewide 'yellow light.' It is time to press pause for one week before any further reopening."
The Governor scheduled a press conference for Friday morning at 9 a.m. to interface with the press about these latest developments
Oregon's populous Multnomah County applied to enter Phase I this week, while Hood River, Marion, and Polk counties had applied to enter Phase II. All four county applications have now been "put on hold for one week," the Governor's office said.
State public health officials have been alarmed by an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in both urban and rural communities around the state. In Multnomah County, more than 40 percent of new cases in the last week could not be traced to a source.
Hood River County has seen an increase in new cases, many linked to several workplace outbreaks that are happening simultaneously. Marion County saw a nearly 40 percent increase in cases over the past week, in addition to a rise in hospital admissions due to the virus. Polk County has seen an increase in cases and a workplace outbreak.
Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen called the decision "a reminder, not a rollback." Allen said that there was not yet any information linking new cases to recent demonstrations throughout the state following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“This one week pause will give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus and determine if we need to adjust our approach to reopening. I will work with doctors and public health experts to determine whether to lift this pause or extend it or make other adjustments," Brown said.
“I want to remind the public that there are very simple precautions each of us should take to reduce the spread of the disease: Avoid large gatherings," she continued. "Wear a face covering. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home when you are sick.”
Twenty-nine of Oregon's 36 counties, including all southern Oregon counties, remain in Phase II. Though there have been new cases in many of these counties, nothing about their reopening status has changed at this time.