SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that more than a dozen Oregon counties will be placed on the state's highest level of COVID-19 restrictions effective April 30. The state passed a hospitalization threshold on Monday that officials put in place earlier this month.
Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath are among the 15 Oregon counties that will be on "Extreme Risk" status Friday. Curry County will remain at Moderate, and Lake County at Lower Risk.
“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher. With new COVID-19 variants widespread in so many of our communities, it will take all of us working together to bring this back under control.”
According to Brown's statement, the 15 counties will be placed on Extreme Risk for "a maximum of three weeks," and will be able to move to a lower risk level sooner if county COVID-19 case rates drop, or if the state's hospitalization numbers decline.
However, Brown's office said that the Oregon Health Authority would re-evaluate the plan if hospitalizations or case rates remain high after three weeks, making recommendations to the Governor's office for next steps.
Brown and state officials put the Extreme Risk category on hold April 6, instead invoking a new statewide hospitalization metric that spared counties from returning to the state's highest restriction level even if their case rates would have otherwise qualified them under Oregon's county risk level framework.
The threshold identified by state officials is 300 or more COVID-19 patients in hospital beds at a given time, in addition to a 15 percent increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over a week's time.
Brown foreshadowed last week that twelve Oregon counties could be placed under Extreme Risk status as both cases and hospitalizations in the state continued to rise. However, the state did not immediately rise about the 300-patient threshold over the weekend.
On Monday, the Oregon Health Authority's daily report listed 319 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, crossing the line demarcated by Governor Brown.
Alongside the news of renewed Extreme Risk restrictions, Governor Brown said that she is working with state lawmakers on a $20 million emergency relief package aimed at impacted businesses within Extreme Risk counties through an existing commercial rent relief program.
“After conversations with legislative leaders, I am confident we can move quickly to bring relief to businesses and their employees in Extreme Risk counties," Brown said. "The vast majority of Oregon businesses have followed our health and safety guidance to protect Oregonians from COVID-19, even though doing so has come with an economic cost. This emergency aid will help businesses in Extreme Risk counties.”
The relief funding is accompanied by slight adjustments to Extreme Risk restrictions on restaurants. While indoor dining remains prohibited in these areas, Brown's office said that outdoor capacity has been raised from 50 to 100 people when physical distancing guidelines are observed.
“We know that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower outdoors," Brown continued. "I am urging all Oregonians, if you choose to gather with others, keep it outdoors. Indoor transmission is a key driver in the COVID-19 surge that is making renewed health and safety restrictions necessary.”
Brown urged Oregonians to seek out COVID-19 vaccines, calling it the fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions.
"I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families," the Governor said. "My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy. But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated. There are appointments available right now all across the state.”