PORTLAND, Ore. — At a press conference on Thursday morning, Governor Kate Brown announced which counties have been cleared to enter "Phase One" of the state's plan for loosening coronavirus restrictions.
Overnight, counties in southern Oregon began to report that they had received the green-light to begin Phase One on Friday. Jackson, Josephine, Curry, Klamath, and Lake counties all confirmed that they were approved.
As of Wednesday, all but three of Oregon's 36 counties had plans under review for reopening on May 15. Those plans were originally submitted to the Governor's office, which screened the applications for basic compliance before they were passed on to the Oregon Health Authority for a more thorough review.
Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties — those hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — did not apply to reopen.
Governor Brown said that 28 of the counties that applied have been approved for Phase One. Only Marion and Polk counties were rejected for the time being. Three other counties — Jefferson, Umatilla, and Morrow — remain under review, with the Oregon Health Authority requesting further information from county officials before proceeding.
According to OHA director Patrick Allen, Marion and Polk counties both saw an increase in hospitalizations and community spread COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks. They'll be monitored going forward to see if those trends change before they are approved.
Regardless of those county-by-county decisions, the Governor's office clarified earlier this week that nearly all retail stores throughout the state can reopen on May 15, with physical distancing and sanitation caveats. The only exception is for retail stores within shopping malls, which have to receive the countywide greenlight first.
Also beginning Friday, emergency child care will be expanded with new safety guidelines, reportedly giving more flexibility to families that are returning to work in order to access child care options.
"Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Oregon child care providers have continued to operate by applying with the Early Learning Division to provide emergency child care –– with priority given to the families of first responders, emergency workers, health care professionals, and other essential personnel working outside the home," Brown's office said. "The new guidance also applies to other early learning programs, such as respite care and kindergarten transition."
Oregon is still continually updating sector-specific guidance as businesses shift to Phase One, which is posted to the state website.
There is still no specific guidance for gyms. Though fitness centers in counties approved for Phase One are ostensibly allowed to open, OHA health officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said that he hoped they would remain closed until that guidance was finalized, which he expected to be done on Friday.
"The Governor’s Office continues to work with the Oregon Health Authority to update health and safety guidance for the reopening process," Brown's office said. "Members of the public with questions about the reopening process are encouraged to visit coronavirus.oregon.gov. A new version of the website will launch tomorrow, May 14, to help Oregonians navigate the guidance that applies at the county level and statewide."
This is a developing story, and the article will be updated with more details as they emerge.