Lincoln County officials said last Friday they were uncertain when Lincoln County will qualify for an initial reopening of businesses due to questions about regional readiness. However, it appears the Board of Commissioners are getting their questions answered as they voted Monday to submit a reopening application to the Governor.
Oregon has seven key criteria measured at the County level or at a regional level that must be met before a County may enter Phase One of reopening. Lincoln County is in a region that includes Lincoln, Benton, Linn, Polk, Yamhill and Marion Counties.
“It’s clear that Lincoln County can meet county-level benchmarks set out by the state of Oregon," Commissioner Kaety Jacobson, Board of Commissioners Chair, said last week. "However, there is less clarity if the county’s regional partners will be ready to meet regional criteria for hospital surge capacity, personal protective equipment supply levels for hospitals, and testing resources and capacity for the region."
In Lincoln County, restrictions on local short-term lodging are covered by a separate order adopted by the county and cities and are not part of the state-approved reopening plan. The Governor expressed concerns in a call with commissioners last Thursday that the reopening not result in a deluge of visitors to the coast. Local work on a phased reopening of short-term lodging is included in the local planning process.
The Commissioners said Monday (May 11), that they would be reconvening this Thursday with City Councils from across the County to talk about a gradual reopening of the lodging industry.
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners met via Zoom on Monday and discussed whether they would submit an application to begin the reopen process. Commissioners expressed concerns that this process may be a bit premature to start at the May 15 date, as Jacobson cited her trip over the weekend to Lincoln City, in which she saw several cars both driving and parked along the side of the road.
“I am concerned that the horse is out of the barn and getting horses back in the barn can be difficult,” she said.
Because of this, Jacobson suggested submitting an application without a set date for reopening. Commissioner Claire Hall was indifferent to that idea, while Commissioner Doug Hunt was in favor of setting a June 1 date, which would coincide with the county’s short-term rental order.
“I’m uncomfortable submitting if we are going to reopen before June 1,” Hunt said. “I feel we’re risking a surge and we’ll be looking at the possibility of having to shut down.”
Ultimately, the Commissioners decided to submit without a set reopening date, after a 2-1 vote. The Commissioners will look for guidance from the state on setting that date for reopening.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference May 7, to give details regarding timelines for reopening qualifying counties and what phase one will entail for Oregonians. First, she spoke about the state’s progress in limiting transmission of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
“We’ve taken extraordinary measures to protect our communities as we’ve fought this virus… These sacrifices have prevented as many as 70,000 COVID-19 infections and 1,500 hospitalizations in Oregon,” Gov. Brown said. “We are on track to meeting the goals that doctors and public health experts have laid out for us. That means we now have the opportunity to begin rebuilding a safe and strong Oregon.”
Gov. Brown said the state hit a record low last week for hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since the stay home order has been in place, with fewer than 100 statewide. The state has also increased its supply of personal protective equipment and has ramped up its testing and contact tracing throughout Oregon.
“Science and data remain my guidepost as we begin to reopening of Oregon,” Gov. Brown said. “Let me be very clear, these choices are not easy. As we reopen parts of our economy, we know and expect there may be an uptick in new Coronavirus cases. That’s why we have to be prepared in every single corner of the state, because as we’ve seen, an outbreak can occur anywhere in the state.
“Until there is a vaccine, unfortunately, we will not be able to go back to life as we knew it."
The Governor said physical distancing is, and will, remain apart of our lives for many months to come, along with the use of face coverings and vigilant hand washing. That being said, Oregon counties can begin applying to begin phase one of the Governor’s Reopening Oregon plan starting May 8 and if they meet the criteria, they will be able to begin phase one on May 15.
The criteria includes showing a decline in COVID-19 or have fewer than five hospitalizations, having sufficient COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capability, establishing plans for the isolation and quarantine of new cases, having the hospital capacity to handle any surge in COVID-19 cases and have enough personal protective equipment for health care workers.
For counties that meet the state requirements for phase one:
- Restaurants and bars can open for sit down service with adequate physical distancing measures in place. Additionally, employees will be required to wear masks.
- Personal care businesses: salons, barbers, gyms can open with physical distancing and increased sanitation. Additional guidelines such as wearing face coverings and gloves at salons will also be given. Salons must serve employees be appointment only and are required to maintain records for contact tracing.
- Retail businesses can open with physical distancing, added signage, one-way flow in aisles and tape markings to lineate space.
- Local gatherings can increase to sizes of 25 with physical distancing.
Once in phase one, each county will remain in the phase for a minimum of 21 days to monitor and see if there is an unsafe uptick in the cases and hospitalizations. If at that point the county still meets the prerequisites, and has not seen an increase in cases/hospitalizations, then the state will assess to see if they are able to move forward.
The details in phase two will be finalized shortly and Gov. Brown said they will include somewhat larger gatherings and more work in office settings. Gov. Brown spoke briefly about large crowd events such as live sports, concerts, festivals and conventions, stating that they will likely not be happening until there is a vaccine. She advised that any large events scheduled through September should be canceled or significantly modified.
“As this process of reopening begins, I ask that Oregonians come together and be smart,” Gov. Brown said. “Please follow the safety measures we are putting in place to help these businesses reopen. It’s up to all of us to follow their advice to keep Oregon moving forward.”