Malheur County gets green light to enter Phase 2 reopening this weekend

Gov. Kate Brown approved a plan by Malheur County to move into the second phase of reopening today, reducing many COVID-19 restrictions. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez).

VALE – People will be allowed to gather in larger numbers while area restaurants and bars can stay open until midnight starting Saturday, after Gov. Kate Brown approved Malheur County’s plan to enter the second phase of reopening.

The green light by the governor loosens a host of restrictions and means local theaters, pools, bowling alleys, batting cages, jet boats and arcades can reopen as long as they follow strict social distancing and sanitization requirements.

Face masks will still be required for restaurant and bar employees and retail store workers.

For pools, the second phase still requires COVID-19 signage and physical distancing, and water fountains must remain shut down. Pool employees, including lifeguards, are required to wear face masks when they are not in the water.

Gardens and museum will also be allowed a limited reopening.

The limit on larger gatherings – now capped at 25 people – will allow up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Some youth activities also are allowed with proper physical distancing.

The county on Monday submitted its request to the governor for Phase 2 reopening, and Brown announced approval of the county’s plan Thursday.

Fourteen Oregon counties received the go-ahead to enter the second phase of reopening Friday, and 11 counties including Malheur will be able to open Saturday.

To qualify, the county was required to show that at least 95% of all new COVID-19 cases could be traced to a source with 24 hours, and that a minimum of 70% of new COVID-19 positives cases could be traced to an existing positive case.

The county also had to show it did not have a 5% or greater boost in new cases over the most recent seven days.

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said the county met all of the health benchmarks to move into the next phase.

Thursday, the county recorded 32 COVID-19 cases and 762 negative tests for the virus, which placed the overall positive rate at 4%, well below the 5% threshold required by the state.

The positive test percentage rate is going down, said Poe, because of increased testing.

Poe emphasized the COVID-19 threat isn’t gone.

“We still have COVID-19 cases ahead of us and that is why it is important people are vigilant in following the guidance as they move into a more active public life,” said Poe.

Thursday, the state reported 4,399 total COVID-19 cases, with 2,199 people recovered from the illness and 159 deaths. The state reported it had conducted more than 136,000 COVID-19 tests.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].


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