Lane County’s “extreme risk” streak is finally broken after Gov. Kate Brown announced on Feb. 23 that she had lowered the restrictions for 16 counties effective Feb. 26. Lane County is now considered “high risk” after being listed as “extreme risk” since December. If cases rise Brown can still increase restrictions.
The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) said though some restaurants were happy about the news, businesses are also cautious due to the uncertainty of whether there will be increased restrictions two weeks later.
“For the second time in a row, we are seeing great progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon and saving lives,” Brown said in a statement, adding that Oregonians need to make smart choices regarding social distancing. “While these county movements are welcome news, we must continue to take seriously health and safety measures, especially as more businesses reopen and we start to get out more.”
Among other eased restrictions, the lower risk level means indoor dining capacity is not to exceed 25 percent maximum capacity or 50 people, six people per party per table limited to two households in a group. Indoor gyms and entertainment are capped similarly.
In a press release from ORLA, Eugene’s Beppe and Gianni’s Trattoria co-owner John Barofsky said the restaurant is happy to return to full-service dining. “We have tried hard to keep most of our employees on the payroll throughout the pandemic but have had to cut hours to make that happen. Today’s news will allow us to increase the hours available to our workers by about 30 percent now that we have indoor dining coming back online.”
ORLA said in the statement that the news of eased restrictions means indoor dining is an option for 91 percent of Oregon residents. But ORLA also reported that some business owners in Portland chose not to open when their county restrictions were eased due to the difficulty of finding employees for shifts and the uncertainty of how long the dine-in period would last.
Ever since the Oregon Health Authority began categorizing counties’ COVID-19 risk levels on Dec. 3, 2020, Lane County has been considered “extreme,” according to the agency’s online database.
Recently, the county’s COVID-19 cases have decreased. For the two-week period of Jan. 24 to Feb. 6, there were 206 cases per 100,000 residents, according to data from OHA. A county is considered “high risk” if its cases per 100,000 over 14 days are greater than or equal to 200 and the percentage of positive cases over that period is greater or equal to 10 percent.
OHA assigns county risk levels every two weeks. Should a county have elevated case numbers, OHA issues a warning at the end of the first week. If cases continue to rise in the second week, the agency increases restrictions.