PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — For the first time in months, restaurants in Multnomah County — Oregon's most populous county and home to Portland — will open for 50% capacity for indoor dining after meeting county COVID-19 vaccination goals.
Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that half of Oregon's counties will move to the “lower risk" level on Thursday. This category allows a county to significantly reduce its COVID-19 restrictions — 50% capacity for indoor dinging, theaters, gyms and other indoor entertainment spaces. It also expands indoor gatherings to 10 people and retail store capacity to 75%.
“The science is clear: vaccines are very effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19, and they are the key to returning to normal life and lifting health and safety restrictions statewide,” Brown said.
Earlier this month, Brown set statewide and county COVID-19 vaccination targets, with the hope of reopening the state’s economy.
Brown said most statewide coronavirus related restrictions will be lifted when 70% of Oregon’s residents who are 16 years and older receive the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, Brown said.
Currently, more than half of Oregon’s eligible population who are 16 or older have received at least their first vaccine dose.
In addition, Brown announced that counties would become eligible to move into the “lower risk” category when 65% of the area’s population, who are 16 or older, have received their first dose.
In Multnomah County, at least 67% of people ages 16 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Multnomah County health officials, say even as more people are vaccinated they still recommend that “everyone continue wearing masks in any indoor public spaces for the time being.”
“Masks work, and we ask you to keep masking up until our vaccination rates go up and our disease rates go down further,’’ said Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey. “Thousands of people have been fully vaccinated across this county, but not in every neighborhood or age group."
In addition, on Monday Brown announced that businesses in “lower risk” counties will soon have the option of creating “vaccinated sections" or areas where there are no physical distancing nor capacity limits if individuals ages 16 and older can provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated.
The 18 Oregon counties that will move into the state's lower risk level Category on Thursday are Baker, Benton, Curry, Deschutes, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Lake, Lincoln, Morrow, Multnomah, Sherman, Tillamook, Union, Wallowa, Washington and Wheeler.
Fifteen counties will remain in the “high risk” category, which limits indoor social gatherings to six people and indoor dining, indoor entertainment and gyms to 25% capacity or 50 people — whichever is less.
Officials say that as the state's COVID-19 case rate continues to decline, starting next week county risk level changes will be announced each week.
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local news