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Jackson among Oregon counties moving to extreme risk category

SALEM (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday rising COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm doctors and she is moving 15 counties into the extreme risk category, which imposes restrictions such as banning indoor restaurant dining.

Some of the state's biggest cities, including Portland, Salem, Bend and Eugene, are in the counties that will be in the most dire category, effective Friday.

“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” Brown said in a statement.

The move comes, ironically, as the supply of vaccines is exceeding demand. “There are appointments available right now all across the state,” Brown said.

The restaurant industry objected to the move. The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association has said the state has lost more than 1,000 food service businesses since the pandemic began.

“The move by the governor’s office is tone deaf and offensive to tens of thousands of Oregonians working in restaurants and bars across our state attempting to pay their bills,” said Jason Brandt, president and CEO of the industry group.

Brown's office said she is partnering with lawmakers to approve a $20 million small business emergency relief package to immediately support impacted businesses in extreme risk counties through the commercial rent relief program.

The Oregon Health Authority says counties won't be moved into extreme risk unless the peak daily number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients from the previous seven days is at least 300, with a 15% increase over the previous seven days.

The counties in the extreme risk category are: Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Wasco.

Updates to county risk levels next week will be announced on May 4. Counties that improve their COVID-19 metrics will have the opportunity to move to a lower risk level.