Pamplin Media Group – Washington County adapts to life under ‘moderate risk’

Diana J. Smith

Restaurants, fitness centers and more are allowed to up their capacity this week as COVID-19 cases continue to fall.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Employees at Muv Fitness in Hillsboro clean and sanitize machines in June 2020.The coronavirus picture keeps improving in Washington County, where businesses are now being allowed to relax health and safety protocols a little further still.

Gov. Kate Brown declared Washington County, as well as neighboring Clackamas County, to be at “moderate risk” of COVID-19 community spread as of Friday, Feb. 26.

The move down from “high risk” came just two weeks after the most stringent restrictions were rolled back, following about two months during which Washington County was considered to be at an “extreme risk” level.

While Washington County isn’t clear and free just yet, with new COVID-19 cases still being reported on a daily basis, data from the Oregon Health Authority shows marked improvement.

During the first two weeks of February, Washington County was registering about 140 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the OHA. Over the last two weeks of February, that rate dropped to 96 cases per 100,000.

Neighboring Columbia County and Multnomah counties remain at high risk. Yamhill County was reduced from extreme risk to high.

“For the second time in a row, we are seeing great progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon and saving lives,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement last Tuesday, Feb. 23. “Oregonians continue to step up and make smart choices. While these county movements are welcome news, we must continue to take seriously the health and safety measures, especially as more businesses reopen and we start to get out more. As we see infection rates going down and vaccinations ramping up, now is not the time to let down our guard.”

With that welcome news, as of last weekend, local restaurants, gyms and recreation centers were able to double their indoor capacity from what it was the previous two weeks.

According to the county website, the new restrictions include:

• Indoor dining — 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller

• Outdoor dining — 150 people, with a maximum party of eight

• Indoor entertainment, recreation and fitness — 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller

• Outdoor entertainment, recreation and fitness — 150 people

Bars and restaurants will still be expected to close by 11 p.m.

Indoor and outdoor shopping centers will be allowed to operate at 75% of maximum occupancy, up from 50% a week ago.

Although Oregon is heading in the right direction in terms of case rates and test positivity, public health officials at the federal, state and local levels stress that community members should continue to follow health and safety precautions.

The statewide mask mandate remains in effect, something experts believe is crucial to impeding the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings outside the household are strongly encouraged as well.

Vaccinations against COVID-19 continue to become more widely available, although the process is expected to last into the summer. Just this past weekend, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for a third vaccine, a one-shot inoculation produced by Johnson & Johnson.

The Oregon Health Authority said Monday, March 1, that an estimated 34,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should arrive in Oregon this week, further bolstering the state’s vaccine supply.

For more information on your vaccine eligibility and scheduling an appointment, visit the state’s new Get Vaccinated Oregon website.

For more information on what’s open in Washington County and general guidance for businesses, visit the Oregon Health Authority’s website.

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