Just after 1:30 p.m. today Curry County officials received the word they've been looking for — Gov. Kate Brown has approved the county's application to enter Phase II of the state’s plan to reopen Oregon. The county submitted its application earlier in the week and waited patiently for word from the governor's office that Curry could join other counties throughout the state in opening more businesses and activities.
Permission to allow higher risk activities comes with a caveat — the county must continue to monitor resources and activity of the coronavirus.
“I want to say thank you to each and every Oregonian who has made sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our communities,” the governor said Wednesday as she provided more details on what Phase II will mean. “Your leadership –– you choosing to be both kind and smart –– is why we have been able to start the reopening process.”
“Any reopening comes with risk. That’s just a fact of life right now,” she said. “So we need to reduce the risk that comes with reopening. So, fellow Oregonians, you have another chance to shine. A chance to show that you are looking out for your friends, family, and neighbors.”
In a letter to the governor on June 2, Curry County Public Health Administrator Sherrie R. Ward officially requested that Brown allow Curry County to enter Phase II on Friday, June 5.
Ward said that the criteria for the county to enter Phase I continued to be met. She also certified that county first responders have sufficient personal protective equipment. Additionally, she noted that Curry County Public Health has at least five trained contact tracers, which she said was in excess of the level appropriate and reasonable for the size of the population.
Contact tracing is an important element of managing COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control, for COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. A contact tracer works to identify and contact all such individuals as part of the public health effort.
Ward said that 100% of all Curry County had been successfully contact traced within 24 hours of report in the ORPHEUS system. Orpheus is an integrated electronic disease surveillance system used by the state of Oregon.
Curry County hasn’t had a case of COVID-19 reported since May 26 when the Curry County Public Health Department was officially notified of a confirmed case. That case brought the county’s total number of active cases at two, with five recovered cases and zero hospitalizations and zero deaths in the county.
What Phase II means
According to the Governor’s Office, counties that enter Phase 2 will be able to continue with the reopening process, following updated health and safety guidance:
• Gathering limits will be raised to 50 people indoors, and 100 people outdoors.
• Indoor and outdoor venues, including theaters and churches, with 6 feet of physical distancing and other measures in place, can reach a COVID-19 occupancy limit of up to 250.
• Offices can begin reopening and employees can return to workplaces with physical distancing and other measures in place, though remote work is still strongly recommended whenever possible.
• Increased travel will be allowed throughout Oregon, though staying local is still recommended to prevent overloading county health systems.
• Restaurants and bars will have curfews extended to midnight.
All counties, even if still only in Phase I, were allowed more leniency (with social distancing) beginning June 3:
• Zoos, gardens, and museums could reopen in a limited fashion.
• Professional and collegiate sports teams were allowed to train in their facilities with physical distancing and health and safety measures in place.