In her most serious and stark tone in weeks, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that she will shut down indoor dining in bars and restaurants in 12 counties at the end of next week if COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge.
Brown said despite her best efforts to keep the economy open while holding back on virus-control measures, she is canceling a “warning week” buffer and will immediately move what looks like a dozen counties — including possibly Clackamas County — into an “extreme risk” category by next Friday if the number of statewide hospitalized patients reaches 300. That would shut down indoor dining, as well as limit large gyms and movie theaters to no more than six patrons and prohibit indoor visits at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Oregon is about to hit that “extreme risk” trigger any day now, with hospitalized patients standing at 283 Thursday. Health care providers say their systems are showing signs of being overtaxed, with talks of cutting back elective medical procedures in order to free up more staff. Oregon Health & Science University announced that it’s close to running out of life-saving lung support equipment as COVID-19 cases increase.
Oregon also is confronted with a daunting statistic: New cases over the past two weeks have been accelerating faster here than in any other state in the country — with a 58% increase in the past two weeks, according to The New York Times’ ranking of states.
As far as new cases, Oregon ranks 21st highest per capita over the past two weeks. That’s much worse than the state’s overall performance since the beginning of the pandemic, with Oregon recording fewer cases per capita than 47 other states.
Brown acknowledged that a fourth surge — predicted weeks ago by data scientists — “is here.” New cases and hospitalized patients have been rising since at least Spring Break in March.
The governor actually loosened restrictions earlier this month and even earlier this week. On April 6, she made it tougher for counties to fall into the extreme risk category, saying she would only do so if hospitalized patients reached 300 statewide and the seven-day average of hospitalizations increased by more than 15% in a week. On Tuesday, she announced that she was allowing the restart of “full-contact indoor sports” — such as basketball, wrestling and water polo — for adults and youth alike.
“The bottom line is this is always a balance of lives and livelihoods,” Brown said Friday. “And businesses and Oregonians need a sense of predictability. That is why I’m saying today ‘This is essentially your warning. Should cases continue to rise and should we reach capacity in our hospital systems, there will be several counties moving into extreme risk next week.’”
Based on the most recent infection rates, the counties most likely to move into extreme risk next Friday are: Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Linn, Marion, and Polk. That’s 11 counties, and Brown had mentioned “at least” 12 counties. It’s unclear what other county or counties might be deemed extreme risk, but many are close to reaching the threshold, defined as reporting more than 200 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks.
This story will be updated. Check back on OregonLive.com later for more details.
— Aimee Green; email@example.com; @o_aimee