‘Welcome news’: Malheur County gets to move ahead in, bypassing next risk category

Romio’s Pizza & Pasta on South Oregon Street in Ontario is one of the local establishments that received supplies distributed by the city to set up a spot for outdoor dining while indoor dining was banned since Nov. 18. Indoor dining will be back on the menu for Malheur County come Friday.


Gov. Kate Brown announced today that Malheur County is one of 16 which has improved in risk level when it comes to COVID-19 cases per capita. Malheur County has improved so much that it will leap from “extreme risk” to “moderate risk” completely bypassing the “high risk” category.

The positivity rate in Malheur County has drastically dropped to 3.9% from Jan. 31 to Feb. 13, with only 24 confirmed cases in that time period, according to information on the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 webpage.

“For the second time in a row, we are seeing great progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon and saving lives," said Brown in a news release. "Oregonians continue to step up and make smart choices. While these county movements are welcome news, we must continue to take seriously health and safety measures, especially as more businesses reopen and we start to get out more. As we see infection rates going down and vaccinations ramping up, now is not the time to let down our guard. Continue to wear your masks, keep physical distance, and avoid indoor gatherings."

In the “moderate risk” category, restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries are allowed to reopen for limited services, and must close by 11 p.m. Indoor dining can return to 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller, and there is a maximum of 6 people per table allowed. In outdoor dining settings, the capacity can be up to 150 people with up to 8 people per table.

Additionally, churches, funeral homes, mortuaries and cemeteries will be able accommodate up to 50% occupancy or 150 people indoors, and up to 250 people outdoors.

The number of people allowed in outdoor gardens is 150.

Indoor gyms, fitness facilities, museums and theaters can also have up to 50% occupancy, or 100 people, whichever is smaller, and indoor full-contact sports is still prohibited.

Outdoor full-contact sports are allowed in the “moderate risk” category, and up to 150 people can attend those outdoor activities.

Indoor and outdoor social gatherings are still limited to 8 and 10 people, respectively; with a suggestion of no more than two households for indoor gatherings

Grocery stores and pharmacies can operate up to 75% of capacity.

Hair salons, barbers and spas are allowed to operate.

County risk levels are updated every two weeks.

The most recent mandate that went into place by Brown on Nov. 18 put major limitations on social activities, as well as once again shuttering indoor recreation and fitness, indoor entertainment, gyms, museums, bars and other places. It also put take-out, curbside or delivery only rules in place for restaurants. Meant to initially be a two-week “pause,” Brown extended it on Dec. 3.

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