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Jackson County returns to ’extreme’ risk category Friday

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2021, file photo, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visits the Marion County and Salem Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Salem, Ore. Brown announced Tuesday that 15 Oregon counties — including Jackson and Josephine — will return to “Extreme” risk effective April 30 for a period lasting no more than three weeks. (Abigail Dollins/Statesman-Journal via AP, Pool, File)
Governor says she’s working with legislators to help impacted businesses

Jackson and Josephine counties are among 15 counties across Oregon that will be moved to the “extreme risk” category Friday, but the governor’s office says the new wave of pandemic restrictions won’t be indefinite.

The county’s latest stint in “extreme” — and its impacts on indoor dining and gatherings — could be as short as one week and will last no more than three weeks, according to a press release issued Tuesday by Gov. Kate Brown’s office.

“Counties will remain in extreme risk for a maximum of three weeks,” the release said. The governor’s office will begin re-evaluating counties once a week rather than once every two weeks, and counties are eligible to move to a lower risk level if their case rates go down in the coming weeks.

Other counties moving to extreme risk are Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multonomah, Polk and Wasco.

The move of 15 of Oregon’s 36 counties to the state’s most stringent level of restrictions stems from a rise in hospitalizations across the state "threatening to overwhelm doctors and nurses.“

There were 328 COVID-positive patients hospitalized Tuesday across Oregon, according to the Oregon Health Authority, with 71 people in intensive care — a decrease by six from Monday.

The bulk of the state’s hospitalizations are in northern Oregon and the Portland metro area, according to OHA data.

"Extreme“ restrictions will be lifted when coronavirus patients occupy fewer than 300 hospital beds in a week, or if the seven-day average of hospitalizations increases less than 15%.

In quotes attributed to the governor in the release, Brown said her goal is still to lift “most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy.”

She said people getting vaccinated is key to meeting that goal.

“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.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free and readily available at drive-thru and walk-up vaccination clinics at The Expo, and at local pharmacies and other vaccination events. Appointments and identification are not required at The Expo. See jacksoncounty.org/getvaccinated.

As of Monday, 564,986 Oregonians had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,188,803 people were fully vaccinated.

In Jackson County, 26,335 people had received their first dose and 49,751 were considered fully vaccinated.

Brown separately announced efforts with the Oregon Legislature to help businesses affected by the shutdowns.

“I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families,” Brown said.

As a potential lifeline, Brown described a “$20 million emergency relief package to provide immediate aid to impacted businesses in extreme risk counties through the state’s commercial rent relief program.”

She said she’s spoken with legislative leaders and is confident that the state can “move quickly to bring relief to businesses and their employees.”

“The vast majority of Oregon businesses have followed our health and safety guidance to protect Oregonians from COVID-19, even though doing so has come with an economic cost,” the governor stated.

Health officials recorded 29 new cases Tuesday in Jackson County, bringing the local case count to 10,329.

Since the start of the pandemic, 695 Jackson County residents have been hospitalized and 129 have died.

The new cases were among 740 new cases recorded across the state Tuesday, along with two deaths, an 88-year-old Harney County woman and an 86-year-old Clackamas County woman. Both patients had underlying conditions, according to state health officials.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.