SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown's office on Thursday announced a modification to the state's COVID-19 risk level system that could spare areas like Jackson County from sliding back into Extreme Risk status.
Brown's office issued a "two-week extension," allowing counties that have moved down from Extreme Risk to maintain their new status for another two weeks — even if their coronavirus case rates would have otherwise spelled a backslide into the state's highest restrictions.
The change almost certainly applies to Jackson County, which finally dropped to High Risk last Friday, allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining and giving some businesses an opportunity to reopen for the first time in months. But the lower risk level requires that the county see less than 200 cases per 100,000 people each week, which the county surpassed last week and is on track to do again.
"Oregon continues to fare better than most states in the nation with regards to infection and mortality rates, thanks to the smart choices Oregonians continue to make," said Governor Brown. "Recognizing the challenges businesses encounter when facing a switch back and forth between Extreme Risk and other risk levels, this two-week extension will alleviate some of these challenges and give counties a bit more time to bring case rates down. As always, businesses and community members should continue to make smart choices and follow statewide and county-specific health and safety guidance. We all have a part to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
In a statement, Brown's office reasoned that case rates around Oregon have largely been declining. The two-week extension is designed to allow counties an opportunity to "re-focus their efforts" on driving case rates back down, and give local businesses more certainty on their plans on opening and staying open.
"If, at the end of the two-week extension, case rate data still puts the county at Extreme Risk, the county will move to that level," Brown's office stipulated.
Counties that have been given the extension will be noted in the state's next risk level list, issued every two weeks when new risk levels are assigned. The next one is set to be announced on Tuesday, March 9, and would take effect the following Friday.