Malheur County is one of five Oregon counties that will be put into a two-week pause with higher restrictions on social gatherings because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in the county and the state.
The announcement came from Gov. Kate Brown during a press conference Friday afternoon.
“The virus can spread very quickly,” she said, and what is happening in Oregon is reflective of sporadic community spread.
The new measures are aimed “to help stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in counties where community transmission is on the rise,” according to information from Rod Cowie, communications director for the Oregon Helath Authority.
Thursday the number of new COVID cases recorded 770, and the death toll now totals 710.
The high case count on Thursday, combined with recent case counts “continue to show that COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly in Oregon than we had hoped,” said Dean Sidelinger, state health officer, in a news release on Thursday.
“Oregonians have made incredible sacrifices to slow the virus” Brown said. But, “We have to go on the offensive. The two week pause will begin on Wednesday and continue through Nov. 25 — the day before Thanksgiving.
She urged people who had already made their Thanksgiving plans to change them, limiting numbers to six for gatherings in households. For those who have not made plans, she urged cautious celebrations.
“COVID-19 is spreading in Oregon at an unprecedented rate, driven in no small measure by in-person, indoor social gatherings. You are most likely to get COVID-19 from your family and friends,” said Brown on Thursday.
Malheur County is joined on the list by Umatilla. Jackson, Marion and Multnomah Counties, which could be joined by Washington, Baker, Linn and Clackamas counties if their positive case numbers to not decrease.
The Oregon Health Authority will review their numbers on Monday to see if they will be added to the pause list.
The two week pause on social activities includes reducing visits to long-term care facilities if indoors, a limit of 50 people in restaurants, including patrons and staff and limiting the number of people seated together to six people.
“Outdoor dining and take-outage are encouraged,” Brown said.
It also limits the number of people involved in indoor activities, such as gyms or museums, to 50 people.
This does not include places of worship or other faith based gatherings, the governor said.
It also does not include schools.
Gatherings in home should be limited to six people, she added, if they include people outside the immediate family and the number of social gatherings should be significantly reduced.
Businesses should allow work from home to the greatest extent possible.
The two-week pause is designed to limit the amount of direct contact between people.
Previous restrictions have not been followed, Brown said.
“Not all Oregonians are listening. We must stop this virus from spreading,” she said. “We must preserve our hospital capacity. And we must save lives.”
The two-week pause is for counties with case rate above 200 per 100,000 people over a two-week period, or more than 60 cases over a two-week period for counties with less than 30,000.
Brown also made a push for another federal relief package to help people struggling financially because of the pandemic.
“This is a wake-up call,” Brown said.