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Jackson County can officially reopen Friday

Jackson County can officially reopen on Friday after receiving word late on Wednesday night that the county has met the state's criteria for entering phase one of Oregon's reopening plan.

"Thank you for the effort you, your hospitals and your public health experts put into your plan for meeting the prerequisites demonstrating your county’s preparedness for beginning to lift restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic," Gov. Kate Brown said in her letter emailed to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Wednesday night. "I am pleased to inform you that your county’s application to enter Phase I on May 15th has been approved."

Among other changes starting Friday, restaurants that have been limited to take-out only can start serving customers in their dining rooms and shuttered hair salons, barber shops and retail stores can reopen. Malls can open and childcare will be available for more families, not just essential workers. Different business sectors will have to follow a host of health and safety regulations that will be updated Thursday at coronavirus.oregon.gov.

"I want to be clear that reopening does not come without risks," Brown said in the letter that went out to counties that met state criteria to reopen. "With every restriction lifted we know transmission of the virus has the potential to increase. The contact tracing, testing and personal protective equipment requirements that were part of the conditions for opening will be essential to mitigate that transmission increase."

Phase one of reopening will last for at least 21 days while health experts monitor impacts. If COVID-19 cases don't spike, Oregon could enter phase two and have further easing of restrictions. Phase three, the last stage, will see the resumption of large gatherings like concerts, festivals and sports with live audiences. Brown previously said she doesn't want those events with large crowds to start again until a vaccine or effective treatment is available.

"The Oregon Health Authority will be monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in your county, and throughout the state, and will be ready to work with you if any concerns arise. Thank you for all of your hard work and vigilance on behalf of Oregonians," Brown said in the letter.

Josephine County announced early Thursday morning that it also received a letter from the governor authorizing reopening on Friday.

Last week, Jackson County submitted 20 pages of information to the governor detailing how the community worked together to jump-start testing for the virus, stockpile personal protective equipment like face masks, reserve hospital beds for a potential surge and improve safety for vulnerable people weathering the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Brown and state health officials plan to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. on Thursday to announce the counties that can enter phase one of reopening.

A live stream of the governor's press conference will be available for the public to watch atwww.youtube.com/watch?v=_jIn4jbDckk&feature=youtu.be.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Jackson County won approval from Gov. Kate Brown to begin reopening Friday. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune{ }