Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made the dramatic move Thursday night by announcing she would send Umatilla County in eastern Oregon back to her home state after a robbery. six cases of coronavirus.
Brown said neighboring Morrow County will return to Phase 1 reopening.
The moves mark Brown’s first actions to reinstate restrictions for certain counties after she begins lifting restrictions on May 15th.
“COVID-19 has spread dramatically in the counties of Umatilla and Morrow over the past month,” Brown said in a statement. “My heart goes out to the families of Morrow County, Umatilla County and the Confederate tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reserve who have been affected by this disease.
“If we don’t act immediately, we could see the virus spread even faster, infecting and killing more members of the community,” he said. “I know this is difficult news for employers and working families in the region.”
It’s unclear what prompted Brown to act Thursday in a statement at 7:39 p.m., more than five hours after Oregon health officials suggested the state had seen a relatively positive week in its fight with the U.S. pandemic.
Cases have been piling up in both jurisdictions for weeks now, with the highest number in Umatilla County, which has recorded more than 1,900 confirmed or suspected infections.
Officials announced 101 new infections in Umatilla County on Thursday, but said the bill was due to a delay in processing the results. Wednesday’s total was just four.
Umatilla County had been in Phase 2 reopening, but is now returning to the benchmark state, as Brown ordered in March to May 15th. Companies would be supposed to implement telecommuting options for employees, restaurants can only offer delivery and delivery service and residents are. supposedly stay home as long as possible. Social gatherings are limited to 10 people, church meetings are limited to 25, and gyms and playgrounds must close.
Grocery stores and retail stores, gas stations and banks are among the businesses that can remain open.
Meanwhile, Morrow County will move from Phase 2 to Phase 1. Among other things, movie theaters and bowling alleys must close.
Brown said both counties have cumulative coronavirus cases greater than 2 per 100 residents. The percentage of positive tests in Umatilla County last week stood at 23%, while 30% in Morrow County said it was roughly five to six times above the state average.
Meanwhile, about half of last week’s cases could not be traced back to a known source.
“After weeks of trying other measures to control the disease, our only option is to temporarily close certain businesses and other community services,” Brown said. “I hope these measures will help the community control the spread of COVID-19 quickly.”
Umatilla and Morrow counties had been identified by President Trump’s coronavirus task force as “red zones,” according to a July 26 report obtained by The New York Times. The sheets have also designed Malheur and Jefferson counties as red.
The federal government recommends that red zone counties close bars and gyms, institute weekly routine testing for all workers in nursing homes, and monitor and test contacts in areas with higher case rates.
– Brad Schmidt; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
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