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Jackson County restaurants can resume indoor dining

State restrictions will loosen on Friday

Indoor restaurant dining can resume in Jackson County and 14 other counties Friday because the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 statewide is no longer jumping.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday evening that the 15 counties that had been under extreme risk restrictions will get to move back to high risk restrictions Friday.

Gyms and indoor entertainment businesses can increase the number of people inside, and restaurants that had been limited to outdoor and to-go orders can welcome patrons back inside, although numbers will be limited.

The 15 counties were pushed into the extreme risk category last week after statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations were on the rise and topped 300 patients.

On Tuesday, 345 hospital patients had been diagnosed with the virus, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

Hospitalization rates also have to grow by 15% or more compared to the previous week for extreme risk restrictions to remain in effect, according to the state rules.

Hospitalizations went up by 14.9%, OHA data show.

“From the beginning, I have said that returning counties to the extreme risk level was about preserving hospital capacity and saving lives,” Brown said. “With our statewide hospitalization rate stabilizing, our hospitals should have the capacity to continue treating patients with severe cases of COVID-19 and other serious medical conditions in the coming weeks.”

On Friday, no counties will be under extreme risk restrictions, 24 will be under high risk restrictions, four will be at moderate risk and eight will be at lower risk, according to an announcement Tuesday from the governor’s office.

“With Oregonians continuing to get vaccinated each week, my expectation is that we will not return to extreme risk again for the duration of this pandemic,” Brown said.

Brown’s decision to move 15 counties last week into the extreme risk category because of statewide hospitalization numbers was criticized by 80 county commissioners in 30 counties around the state and the restaurant industry. Jackson County commissioners joined in those objections.

Restaurants and their workers have struggled with everything from how much perishable food to order, to how many employees to schedule for work or lay off as indoor dining bans have repeatedly come and gone for more than a year.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 748 new COVID-19 cases and six COVID-19-related deaths Tuesday.

The ages of those who died ranged from 47 to 93, with four people in their 60s. The deaths occurred in Klamath, Jefferson, Clackamas, Marion and Multnomah counties, according to OHA.

For Tuesday, Jackson County logged 36 new COVID-19 cases, OHA said.

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