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Oregon is on the cusp of taking the first steps to reopening and beginning to lift its stay home orders.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today (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.”

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