Multnomah County will not begin reopening its restaurants Friday, as county officials — and many Portland area residents — had hoped.
“In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly, I am putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days,” Brown said in a statement released Thursday night. She plans to re-evaluate current applications again next week.
When a county enters phase one reopening — which has happened in every other Oregon county — restaurants and bars can reopen dining rooms, with particular safety measures in place: Staff need to wear masks, restaurants must stop serving food and wine by 10 p.m., and tables need to be spaced six feet apart. After 21 days, a county can apply to enter phase two reopening, which pushes the curfew to midnight; phase three details have yet to be released, but will require “reliable treatment or vaccine” to further lift restrictions.
The county filed its application to reopen on June 5, hoping to be open by June 12. Just this week, Oregon hit an all-time high for new coronavirus cases reported in a single day — 178 throughout the state, with 43 new cases in Multnomah County. Health officials attribute the spike to increased testing measures, but Gov. Brown wants to give investigators time to make sure there isn’t a true spike, and to figure out what’s exacerbating the spread of the virus.
There are several other factors that could increase the number of presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases, including outbreaks at fruit farms and seafood processing plants, Memorial Day outings, or the phased reopening in other Oregon counties. In the last two weeks, protests against police brutality have emerged across the city, accruing thousands of Portlanders — some of whom police have sprayed with tear gas, which can exacerbate the spread of COVID-19. At this point, Brown wants to let the state take a week to get some answers before any counties move forward.
For a county to reopen, it needs to meet a certain set of criteria — maintaining a decline in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 for a minimum of 14 days, and ramping up its testing capacity and number of contact tracers, for instance.
Some restaurant workers and restaurant owners have expressed reservations about the potential June 12 date; however, others, like North Portland wine bar 45 North and Slabtown restaurant G Love, planned to open for outdoor seating if given the option.
Updated June 11, 2020, 10:57 p.m.
This story has been updated to clarify the potential factors that could be impacting the current state COVID numbers.
• Portland Food Service Workers Are Nervous About Potentially Reopening Friday [EPDX]
• Portland Might ‘Reopen’ on June 12, But Many Restaurants Won’t [EPDX]
• Tear-Gassing Protesters During An Infectious Outbreak Called ‘A Recipe For Disaster’ [NPR]