Parts of Oregon, including Marion County, entered a two-week pause in its phased reopening Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the changes in nine counties where community transmission of COVID-19 is on the rise. The pause in Marion County extends through Wednesday, Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

“We are seeing in real time how this virus can quickly snowball out of control. This Two-Week Pause is a series of measures and recommendations intended to curb human contact — both through reducing the amount of people we interact with, and the frequency of those encounters. We must stop this virus from spreading. We must preserve our hospital capacity. And we must save lives,” said Brown.

Pause measures include:

• Urging all businesses to mandate work from home to the greatest extent possible.

• Pausing long-term care facility visits that take place indoors to protect staff and residents.

• Reducing maximum restaurant capacity to 50 people (including customers and staff) for indoor dining, with a maximum party size of six. Continuing to encourage outdoor dining and take out. 

• Limiting social gatherings to your household, or no more than six people if the gathering includes those from outside your household, reducing the frequency of those social gatherings (significantly in a two-week period), and keeping the same six people in your social gathering circle. 

Brown also called on Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief package.

With the new restrictions, Oregon OSHA issued new guidance for all businesses.

• Employers must ensure six-foot distancing between all people in the workplace through design of work activities and workflow, unless it can be shown it is not feasible for some activities.

• Employers must ensure that all individuals – including employees, part-time workers and customers – at the workplace, or other establishment under the employer’s control, wear a mask, face covering, or face shield. Employers must provide masks, face coverings, or face shields for employees free of cost. 

• Employees must be allowed to wear masks even in areas where it would not otherwise be required.

• Employers must develop an infection control plan addressing several elements, including when workers must use personal protective equipment and a description of specific hazard controls.

• Employers must provide information and training to workers about the relevant topics related to COVID-19. They must do so in a manner and language understood by workers.

More safety measures are required for workplaces that have exceptionally high risk, the specifics can be found at tinyurl.com/oshaor.

As of Monday, Nov. 9, Oregon had experienced more than 700 new, confirmed cases per day for five consecutive days. There were 29 deaths as a result of COVID-19 during that same time period. The number of positive cases increased by 14.4% during the weekend of Nov. 7-8 and are projected to increase further Active hospitalizations are also increasing dramatically. 

Marion County is third (79 cases) in the number of new cases throughout the state. Portland’s Multnomah (204 cases) and Washington (119 cases) counties typically lead the state. 

Those between the ages of 10 and 39 are most likely to be affected according to the most recent numbers available, those groups accounted for more than 1,700 of the roughly 2,400 new cases as of Friday, Nov. 6. Older individuals are less impacted by the disease currently, but can suffer more dire consequences.  

County commission responds

The Marion County Board of Commissioners responded with derision toward the new order.

“Marion County is in the middle of recovering from devastating wildfires. Much of the work associated with wildfire recovery must be done in person. We have maintained appropriate COVID-19 protocols including physical distancing, mask wearing and temperature screening at meetings and public events,” said Commissioner Colm Willis.

The commission said that restaurants are not a significant source of community outbreak, the most community spread of COVID-19 is a result of larger, private social gatherings, and that the county has not seen a surge in emergency visits or hospitalizations because of COVID-19..

Members of the board cited increased testing and rapid testing as alternatives.

“As we approach the holiday season it’s important to remember we all have a part to play to keep our community healthy. We encourage everyone to wear face coverings, wash hands frequently, stay home if you are sick and practice physical distancing when you’re around people not from your household. Working together we can help keep Marion County safe, strong, and thriving,” said Commissioner Kevin Cameron.