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This is the beginning, not the end

Jackson County residents may resume dining out, clothes shopping and more starting today, subject to a number of limitations. That’s a welcome relief, but it does not mean the novel coronavirus is no longer a threat.

Gov. Kate Brown granted permission to 31 counties to begin a phase one reopening. She denied requests from Marion and Polk counties — Marion has the highest infection rate in Oregon — and Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington did not apply to reopen. The Portland area also has seen high numbers of cases of COVID-19.

The potential for a spike in new cases is the biggest concern of health officials. Other states where reopening has proceeded faster than federal guidelines recommend have seen infection rates jump. Some countries around the world have reimposed lockdown restrictions when cases soared after reopening was permitted.

Oregon has had relatively few confirmed cases, and Jackson County even fewer, with just 50 cases and no deaths. But health officials warn that could change quickly if people do not continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines, including remaining 6 feet apart and wearing cloth masks in public.

Gatherings of more than 25 people are still banned. Restaurants may resume serving sit-down meals, but dining parties are limited to 10, and individuals must be seated 6 feet or more from other tables and booths. Restaurants and bars must close at 10 p.m.

Besides continuing to observe social distancing, Oregonians are still being urged not to travel outside their communities — sorry, but don’t jump in your car and head to the coast — and vulnerable people, including older residents and those with underlying health conditions, should continue staying home as much as possible.

Those working from home should continue to do so.

All of this will be in place for at least three weeks before state officials consider moving to phase two. It will take that long for new cases to show up if they are going to.

Meanwhile, enjoy the partial easing of restrictions, but please don’t get careless, no matter how tempting it may be. This is not the end of the pandemic but the beginning of a long, slow process. Be careful out there.