SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that the 15 Oregon counties currently on Extreme Risk status will be able to step back down after a week on the heightened restrictions — a move that will apply to Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath counties.
The change will go into effect on Friday, May 7, allowing the counties that jumped to Extreme Risk last Friday to resume High Risk status. In all, 24 Oregon counties will be at High Risk, four at Moderate, and eight at Lower Risk (see the full list here).
In a statement, Brown's office said that the seven-day average increase for hospitalized COVID-19 patients dropped below 15 percent, putting the state below the threshold outlined in early April. She said she does not anticipate that any counties will return to the state's highest level of restrictions "for the duration of this pandemic."
According to the Oregon Health Authority's latest update, COVID-19 hospitalizations have not significantly dropped, only plateaued. The agency currently lists 345 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 79 in intensive care. Officials triggered the move to Extreme Risk for counties with high rate of spread after the state surpassed 300 hospitalized patients.
OHA said that the total number of COVID-19 positive patient "bed days" over the last week was 2,371, a 14.9 increase over the previous seven days — and just under the 15 percent wire established in early April.
Stepping down to High Risk is a significant development — and no doubt a bewildering one — for restaurants and other businesses in counties that were under Extreme Risk restrictions since last Friday. It means that restaurants can reopen indoor dining, while venues and fitness establishments can increase capacity again.
Governor Brown accompanied the announcement with the following statement:
“Let me be clear: across the state, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still high, and Oregon is not out of the woods yet. However, we have met the hospitalization metric established by our health experts for counties to return to High Risk. From the beginning, I have said that returning counties to the Extreme Risk level was about preserving hospital capacity and saving lives. With our statewide hospitalization rate stabilizing, our hospitals should have the capacity to continue treating patients with severe cases of COVID-19 and other serious medical conditions in the coming weeks.
“Based on today’s numbers, I am keeping my commitment to Oregonians. Beginning Friday, all counties in Extreme Risk will return to High Risk. With Oregonians continuing to get vaccinated each week, my expectation is that we will not return to Extreme Risk again for the duration of this pandemic.
“I know this will bring relief to many across the state. However, the lifting of Extreme Risk health and safety measures comes with great personal responsibility for us all. If Oregonians continue to keep up their guard, follow High Risk health and safety measures, and get vaccinated as fast as possible, we should see our COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates decline. I’d like to thank Oregonians for taking this surge seriously for the last several weeks. It’s because of you that our hospitals have not been overwhelmed.
“Today, we also received the welcome news from the Biden-Harris administration that they will be reallocating unused vaccines to the states that need them. Oregon will ask for the maximum allowed, which will help us to get shots in arms faster. Vaccinations are still our best path to protecting our loved ones, and staying on track to fully reopen our economy by the end of June.”