Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington county restaurants will be able to reopen dining rooms Friday. Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement saying the Portland metro counties have left the “extreme risk” designation today, which means that starting Feb. 12, Portland restaurants can serve some customers indoors.
“High risk” counties — the level below “extreme risk” — can allow restaurants to serve indoors up to 25 percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Restaurants must close by 11 p.m.
Yesterday, the state released preliminary data that showed Portland-area counties had fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents for two weeks, which would make them eligible to drop down to “high risk.” However, the governor had yet to certify that data; this morning, Brown’s office did release updated county risk levels, showing that the three Portland-area counties — as well as six other counties, including Hood River and Deschutes — had dropped to that “high risk” designation.
This will be the first time Portland-area restaurants have been able to serve customers inside since November. Currently, restaurants in the Portland area can only serve customers onsite if they’re doing so outside; some restaurants, without obvious outdoor space for a makeshift patio, have chosen to go on “winter hiatus” instead, reopening in the spring.
Many major around the country have reopened for indoor dining, including New York, Chicago, and Seattle; however, many diners and restaurant workers have said the choice to do so could be disastrous down the line. In Portland, restaurant workers are not yet eligible for the vaccine, and some of the highly contagious variants of COVID-19 have been discovered in some Oregon counties. Industry advocates, then, are pushing to pair the reopening of indoor dining in Portland with vaccinations for restaurant workers. “Although we are cautiously looking forward to being able to serve more guests, we respectfully request that Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority prioritize vaccinating restaurant workers,” says Katy Connors of the Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon. “We have repeatedly heard that scientists and physicians are concerned about the spread of the virus in enclosed spaces with people eating and drinking — an activity that cannot be conducted with a mask on. Restaurant workers should not be forced to choose between their financial health and their physical health.”
This story will be updated with more information.