Portland bars and restaurants will have to close at 10 p.m. for a while longer: Multnomah County is pausing its reopening plans, which would ease some of the restrictions set on businesses and county residents to curb the spread of COVID-19.
County officials are waiting to see if the Fourth of July weekend spurred a spike in new cases of COVID-19 before they move forward with the reopening process, especially considering the recent record-breaking numbers of new daily coronavirus cases in Oregon. In a written statement about the decision to pause, Multnomah County chair Deborah Kafoury says the county will “take a careful look at our numbers and how behaviors since mid-May are affecting our infection rates,” adding that “the virus is not sufficiently contained” to allow the county to move forward with the reopening process.
In Oregon’s phased reopening system, counties apply to reopen with the state depending on a certain number of factors, including the number of people infected, and the capacity of hospitals, testing facilities, and contact tracers. If approved, a county enters phase one, which allows restaurants and bars to open with social distancing protocols in place; however, during phase one, restaurants must end service by 10 p.m., which has frustrated some restaurant owners. After 21 days, counties can apply to enter phase two reopening, which extends that curfew until midnight, and allows larger groups to gather while social distancing.
Although Multnomah County, the last county to enter phase one, would hit that three-week mark on Friday, it will not attempt to enter phase two this weekend. But it’s not just Multnomah County that’s affected by this choice — Gov. Brown is treating Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties as a singular unit when approving reopening plans, and none of those counties meet the necessary criteria to enter phase two. Clackamas applied to enter phase two in June and was denied; according to the Oregonian, both Washington and Clackamas counties have asked to be evaluated independently, and were also denied. All three counties are a part of the Portland metro area.
State officials were concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 last weekend, and Gov. Kate Brown issued a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces starting July 1. Brown said that she would send out inspectors to ensure that people were wearing masks in businesses and following state safety guidelines. However, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission did not issue any violations in the Portland metro area.
Meanwhile, Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been fielding thousands of complaints about workplace health violations during the coronavirus pandemic, including hundreds of complaints related to grocery stores. People have specifically referenced large-scale grocery stores like Fred Meyer not enforcing the mask mandate; according to state records, some employees say their managers are telling them not to enforce mask-wearing in stores. A Fred Meyer spokesperson told Willamette Week that the stores are “making every reasonable effort to encourage compliance.”
It’s unclear when the tri-county area will enter phase two reopening.
• Statement from Chair Deborah Kafoury [Official]
• Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington counties’ reopening plans on hold [O]
• State Records Show Oregon Grocery Stores Are Reluctant to Enter the Culture War Over Face Masks [WWeek]
• Most Portland-area restaurants complying with reopening guidelines, OLCC finds [KATU]
• Record number of coronavirus cases with 375 cases; Oregonians should ‘absolutely’ cancel July 4 plans, health official says [O]
• As Holiday Reveling Begins, Oregon Governor Will Send Inspectors to Check for Masks [WWeek]
• Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties linked together for future reopening phases [KGW]
• Restaurant Owners Aren’t Thrilled With the Premise of a 10 p.m. Curfew [EPDX]
• Oregonians Will Be Required to Wear Masks in Bars and Restaurants Statewide [EPDX]