Portland’s bars and restaurants will, once again, need to close their indoor dining rooms to customers starting April 30. Multnomah and Clackamas counties, as well as 13 others, will enter the “extreme risk” category, which limits food businesses to outdoor service only. The decision comes as COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations surge throughout the state.
The full list of counties entering the extreme risk category consists of Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, and Wasco. Under extreme risk guidelines, restaurants and bars can serve customers outside, with a capacity limit of 100 people (newly increased from 50 people); no more than six people per party can sit together, from no more than two households. Restaurants and bars must close by 11 p.m., as before. The risk level also puts limits on places like churches and gyms: Churches can house no more than 25 percent of their capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller, and fitness centers over 500 square feet can have no more than six people inside at any given time, not counting staff.
This will be Multnomah County’s third indoor dining shutdown since the state announced the first presumed case of COVID-19 in Oregon in March 2020. The state first reopened Portland restaurants for indoor dining in June, followed by the second indoor service shutdown in November. Restaurants once again reopened for indoor service in February, and even as the state allowed some Oregonians to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, cases climbed.
On April 23, Gov. Kate Brown announced that, unless things slowed down, the rising case counts would force her to put more than a dozen counties back in the extreme risk category as soon as April 30. “Today’s cases topped 1,000, with Oregon now ranking second in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread,” she said. “At this moment, we are moving backwards. Oregon needs to be moving forward. My goal is to get the state back on track to lift the restrictions this pandemic has forced upon us — I think we can get there by the start of summer, but we will all need to work together.”
On April 19, Oregon opened vaccination slots to all Oregonians more than 16 years old, two weeks after restaurant and grocery workers became eligible. The state has been criticized by food workers unions and advocacy groups for waiting to open vaccine eligibility to frontline workers weeks after other states, like New York and California, opened up vaccination access to those populations.
Gov. Brown’s office released new county risk levels today, confirming that the state would heighten restrictions on 15 counties; restaurants and bars have until Friday to prepare for that shutdown, which will last at least a week. The state will evaluate hospitalization and COVID-19 case numbers and adjust levels accordingly on a weekly basis for at least the next three weeks. The governor also says she’s working on approving a new $20 million relief package for business owners in extreme-risk counties.
“The fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions is for Oregonians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and follow the safety measures we know stop this virus from spreading,” Brown said in a press release. “I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families. My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy.”
• Governor Kate Brown Urges Oregonians to Get Vaccinated, 15 Counties Qualify for Extreme Risk Amid Rapid Surge in COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations [Official]
• Oregon governor to close indoor dining next Friday in some counties if COVID hospitalizations spike [O]
• Oregon Pauses Indoor and Outdoor Dining at Restaurants and Bars for at Least Two Weeks [EPDX]
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the restaurant within the story’s photo caption. It is a picture of Andina, not Ataula.