A1 county to move to moderate.jpg

Gabriel De Leon, Ash Creek Elementary School second grade teacher, leads instruction last week of a hybrid, in-person group of students.


DALLAS — Polk County is moving into the moderate risk category as of Friday, March 26.

Jacqui Umstead, Polk County Public Health Administrator, shared the good news during her presentation Tuesday to the County Commissioners.

Umstead said the move to moderate risk level essentially increases capacity for what is already open. According to the Oregon Health Authority website, the changes include:

Restaurants go from 25 to 50 percent indoor seating and outdoor dining is increased to 150 people

Indoor entertainment establishments, indoor recreation and fitness establishments also go up from 25 percent to 50 percent or 100 people, whichever is smaller.

Indoor/outdoor shopping, retail shopping stores are now allowed at 75 percent capacity.

Faith institutions are allowed at 50 percent or 150 people, whichever is smaller, and outdoor services are increased to 250.

Outdoor fitness facilities are now allowed to have 150 people.

Umstead added limits on social gatherings for indoor activities now goes up from six to eight people and outdoor activities go up from eight to 10, although they’re still recommending limiting gatherings to two households.

Polk County qualified for the moderate risk category by having a 2% positivity rate and 72.3 cases per 100,000 over the last 14 days.

By comparison, Marion County remains in the high-risk category, with a 3.9% positivity rate and 125.9 cases per 100,000.

In addition, the OHA, based upon new guidance from the CDC, authorized schools on Monday to decrease social distancing of students in classrooms from six feet to three feet. Umstead said the recommendation does not apply toward any other social distancing requirement in the community.

“That is the only place, in schools, where the distance has changed at this time,” she said.

The Oregon Department of Education’s Ready School Safe Learners guideline changes allow desks to be three feet apart rather than six feet apart. But they’ve kept other stipulations where they still want people six feet apart when they’re doing any sort of physical exertion in the schools, such as when singing or eating with their masks on.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, the new physical distancing allowance is a local decision. Schools may maintain 6 feet and, under certain conditions, must maintain 6 feet — such as when students from different classrooms are passing in hallways between periods, or when students are eating. These changes may take place over the next several weeks in some of our schools as every school district will need time to plan and adjust to these new requirements.

Emily Mentzer, Central’s communications coordinator, said the district is on spring break this week, but will address the issue when they return.

“At the district office, we are working to update our operational blueprints, but have not taken into consideration the new distancing requirements yet, as they were just issued,” Mentzer said.

For more on the distancing changes for schools, see a related story on A2.

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