Malheur County is among the 21 counties listed as extreme risk counties, where COVID-19 is widespread and hospitalizations are high.
As such, after the two week freeze ends on Dec. 2, strict health and safety measures will remain in place, according to a news release that followed a pre-holiday press conference by Gov. Kate Brown and state health officials on Wednesday afternoon.
Brown said people who don’t take COVID-19 seriously are putting everyone at risk.
“When people don’t respect how serious this virus is, and when they act against the recommendations of doctors and public health experts, not only are they putting themselves at risk, they’re putting all of us at risk,” she said.
She urges that Oregonians take the usual precautions no matter what risk level their county is in. This includes wearing face coverings, watching physical distance, washing hands, staying home when sick and keeping social get-togethers and gatherings small.
As cases are expected to continue to rise during the winter months, four different risk levels are being established for counties based on their level of COVID spread. Health and safety measures apply for businesses and individuals.
“The framework is intended to establish sustainable protection measures for Oregonians in counties with rapid spread of COVID-19, while balancing the economic needs of families and businesses in the absence of a federal aid package,” reads a news release.
On Nov. 30, the Oregon Health Authority will reexamine county data to determine which counties qualify for each risk level on Dec. 3.
“In each subsequent two-week period, the Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly, but county risk levels will not change until the end of the second week,” reads the release. “In the first week, counties will be given Warning Week data to prepare for potential risk level changes. In the second week, county risk levels will be updated based on that week’s data.”
Measures for highest-risk counties
For counties with extreme risk, including Malheur County, the following activities will be allowed, with health and safety protocols in place.
• Social and at-home gatherings with people from outside your household will be limited to a maximum of six people, with a recommended limit of two households;
• Restaurants, bars, and other eating and drinking establishments will be limited to a maximum of 50 people for outdoor dining only, with only six people per table. Take-out is strongly encouraged;
• Indoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment establishments, including gyms, will remain closed, however, outdoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment activities, including outdoor gym activities, will be allowed, with a maximum limit of 50 people outdoors.
• Retail stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and indoor and outdoor shopping centers and malls will be limited to a maximum of 50% of capacity, with curbside pick-up encouraged.
• Faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, and cemeteries will be limited to a maximum of 25% of capacity or 100 people indoors (whichever is smaller), or 150 people outdoors.
• Office workplaces will be required to utilize remote work to the maximum extent possible, with public-facing offices closed to the public.
• Personal services businesses will be allowed to continue to operate with health and safety measures in place.
• Long-term care facilities can allow limited outdoor visitation, following established health and safety protocols.
Oregon counties that are successful in reducing their COVID-19 risk levels in the coming weeks and months will be able to incrementally move to lower risk levels.
“It’s important to note that there is no Zero Risk category,” reads the release. “Until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, health and safety precautions will remain in place so that schools, businesses, and communities can reopen, and stay open,” reads the release.