Most Oregon counties will spend holidays under tightest COVID-19 restrictions

Oregon Capital Bureau

Most of Oregon will greet the holiday season and New Year's Eve as "extreme risk" locations requiring tight COVID-19 limits on gatherings, dining and activities.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced new risk levels for counties after the initial two-week period of the four-tiered ratings: extreme, high, moderate and low. The new ratings are effective Friday and will last through Dec. 31.

In a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic is still growing in Oregon, more counties were added to the extreme risk level: Benton, Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Lincoln and Tillamook counties. As of Friday, 29 of 36 Oregon counties will be in the most restrictive level.

Tuesday's announcement puts the entire Oregon Coast from Astoria to the California state line in the extreme risk category.

"We continue to see community spread across Oregon to the point that the majority of the state needs to continue with strict health and safety measures," Brown said in a statement Tuesday.

A few counties saw their risk levels lowered.

The biggest movement of any county was Grant County, which dropped from the highest rating to the lowest.

Harney County moved from moderate risk to low risk.

Lake County moved from extreme risk to moderate risk.

Counties under the extreme risk limits must limit gatherings to six people from no more than two households.

Employers are required to tell all workers who can do their jobs remotely to stay away from their offices.

All indoor dining is closed and outdoor dining is limited to 50 percent capacity with take-away meals strongly encouraged. Use of entertainment, exercise, gyms and pools, sports games and activities located indoors is prohibited.  Outdoor activities are limited to 50 people.

Visitations to residents of long-term care and other congregate care facilities must be held outdoors.

Retail stores can remain open, but at 50 percent capacity. Personal services business, such as hair salons, can remain open.

Faith institutions should limit indoor gatherings to a maximum 25% capacity or 100 total (whichever is smaller), and a limit of 150 outdoors.

Risk levels will be revised next with an announcement on Dec. 29 and will cover the period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 14.

As of Monday's report, Oregon has had 95,010 positive COVID-19 cases, resulting in 1,161 deaths

State health officials said that despite the arrival Monday of the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, it will be several months until most of the state will be eligible to receive the two-shot inoculation. Until then, pandemic safeguards will still need to be followed:  wear a mask, keeping physical distance from others, avoid gatherings, washing hands often, and staying home when you're sick.

Risk level data can be found at coronavirus.oregon.gov

Risk levels effective Dec. 18: 

Lower risk: (6): Gilliam, Grant (moved from extreme), Harney (moved from moderate), Sherman, Wallowa, and Wheeler

Moderate risk (1): Lake (moved from extreme)

High risk: (0)

Extreme risk (29): Baker, Benton (moved from high), Clackamas, Clatsop (moved from high), Columbia, Coos (moved from high), Crook, Curry (moved from high), Deschutes, Douglas, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln (moved from high), Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook (moved from moderate), Umatilla, Union, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill

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