Oregon Gov. Kate Brown extended a two-week “pause” on social activities to the entire Portland metro area, announcing Monday that coronavirus infections in the suburbs have spiraled too quickly.
Brown’s directive, which takes effect Wednesday, reduces restaurant capacity and indoor sporting activities to 50 people and blocks indoor visitations at long-term care facilities. The governor also encouraged working from home and asked Oregonians to limit social gatherings to six people.
Brown on Monday added four counties — Clackamas, Baker, Union and Washington — to the list of jurisdictions entering the pause period. Brown named Multnomah, Marion, Jackson, Umatilla and Malheur to the list last week.
“As we continue to see alarmingly high case rates reflective of sporadic community spread, now is the time to implement measures to further reduce gatherings and curb human contact,” Brown said in a statement.
Oregon set a slew of coronavirus records Monday, reaching new highs in average daily cases, active hospitalizations and test positivity rates. Those figures have nearly doubled in the past two weeks as Oregon, like the rest of the country, experiences a record-setting wave of infection.
Brown and public health officials said more social and business restrictions may be necessary without improvement by Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, when the pause period is tentatively set to end.
Given the current trajectory, it’s unclear whether that will happen. Oregon’s rate of transmission is estimated as the sixth- or ninth-highest in the country, according to coronavirus tracking websites previously cited by the Oregon Health Authority.
The new restaurant guidelines set a capacity of 50 people, including customers and staff. That capacity also applies to gyms, bowling alleys, swimming pools, yoga studios and museums. Officials are also asking people to limit the frequency of gatherings and keep social circles to six people.
Oregon is applying a pause period to populous counties that recorded at least 200 cases per 100,000 people during the past two weeks, or more than 60 cases over the same span for counties with fewer than 30,000 residents.
Both Washington and Clackamas counties were just under the threshold. But Brown placed them on pause anyway, citing the high daily case counts from the past week.
“We realize that the news of a two-week pause is something Clackamas County residents did not want to hear,” Clackamas County Chairman Jim Bernard said in a statement. “We understand this is disappointing. But it’s necessary.”
Brown has asked Oregonians to pause social activities in nine counties totaling more than 2.5 million residents, or nearly 60% of the state’s population, including five of the six most populous counties.
The new pause criteria replace “watch list” metrics that Brown and public health officials set in July, which tracked the rate of infections that could not be traced to a known source. Officials from at least one county, Multnomah, strongly pushed back against that system.
As of the last calculation, Oregon’s statewide average was failing to meet the “watch list” benchmarks Brown set for counties.