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One Week Into Portland’s Reopening, Oregon May Begin to See Exponential Coronavirus Growth

A report from the Oregon Health Authority shows a potentially grim future for the state, with as many as 5,030 daily COVID-19 cases by mid-July

Coronavirus (Covid 19) precautions in Portland
A sign advertising the state’s stay-at-home order restrictions in April
Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

For about a week, Portland has been easing into phase one reopening — restaurants have begun to seat customers in their dining rooms, bars have started serving beer on their patios, and salons are taking their first clients in months. However, as Multnomah County eases its coronavirus-related restrictions, the state could be heading into a serious resurgence of the virus, with exponential growth of new infections and dozens of daily hospital admissions.

A report released by the Oregon Health Authority indicates that, since counties around the state began to reopen May 15, Oregon has seen a “15 percentage point increase in transmission.” A moderate projection based on this data — in which the jump in cases is partially related to increased testing — suggests the state could see 910 new cases daily by July 16, as well as 27 hospitalizations per day. If the increase in cases is unaffected by the new testing practices, the report suggests the number of daily cases could be as high as 5,030 per day, with 82 hospitalizations daily.

In the last week, the state has seen an increase in cases, with around 180 infections per day and 250 reported Friday. In Multnomah County, the average is closer to 44, with 61 new cases announced today; health officials haven’t been able to trace nearly half of them.

Gov. Kate Brown approved the reopening of 31 counties on May 15, using a phased model: In phase one, counties still had to keep tables six feet apart within dining rooms, limit parties to 10 people or fewer, and stop serving food and drinks by 10 p.m. Masks were required for employees, but customers did not have a mandate to wear masks inside; some restaurants and bars required them, but it was up to the business. After 21 days, counties could apply for phase two reopening, which further eased restrictions.

Over that month, cases began to increase dramatically in certain counties; in response, Brown paused the approval of new reopening applications for a week in early June, and required citizens of seven Oregon counties — including Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah — to wear masks in indoor public spaces (Brown added Clatsop to the counties under this mandate today). However, the governor has not yet announced that the state would have to revert to any pre-reopening restrictions, unlike Texas or Florida.

COVID-19 Epidemic Trends and Projections in Oregon [OHA]
Oregon reports 250 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 5 new deaths [OHA]
Nearly Half of Multnomah County’s New COVID Cases Can’t Be Traced to a Specific Source [WWeek]
Oregon State Reopening Begins in 31 Counties [EPDX]
Portland’s Restaurants and Bars Will Not Reopen Friday [EPDX]