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Regional Interests

COVID-19 restrictions easing in Oregon’s largest county — just in time for the Blazers

Fans walk to their seats before an NBA basketball game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers in Portland, Ore., Friday, May 7, 2021. The game was the first fans were allowed to attend since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans walk to their seats before an NBA basketball game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers in Portland, Ore., Friday, May 7, 2021. The game was the first fans were allowed to attend since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Multnomah County will be moving to lower risk status on Thursday, according to the governor.

That’s just in time to allow more fans at the Portland Trail Blazers’ first home game of the NBA playoffs.

Stadiums, churches and other venues in lower-risk counties can create vaccinated sections where capacity limits don’t apply and people can sit closer together if organizers check people’s vaccination cards at the door.

Blazers CEO Chris McGowan said in a tweet that he expects about 8,000 fans at the Moda Center under the new rules. The Moda Center will continue to require all fans to wear a face covering, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Oregon Health Authority says it will be sharing more details online on Thursday on how vaccinated sections for venues will work.

In general, more people are allowed to gather indoors and outdoors when counties move to lower-risk status. Restaurants, gyms, and theaters can increase their capacity to 50% occupancy. Faith institutions, retail stores, and malls can increase their capacity to 75% occupancy.

The Multnomah County Public Health Department, meanwhile, is advising people to continue wearing masks indoors to help avoid new infections. The department said that while it is safe, according to the Centers for Disease Control, for fully vaccinated people to remove their masks in most settings, there’s frequently no practical way to tell who is vaccinated and who isn’t.

“Masks work, and we ask you to keep masking up until our vaccination rates go up and our disease rates go down further,’' Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey said. “Thousands of people have been fully vaccinated across this county, but not in every neighborhood or age group. Nearly one-third of those eligible have not yet received any shot, particularly young people.”

Counties qualify for lower risk status if they have vaccinated 65% or more of residents 16 and older and have a vaccination equity plan approved by the state.

They can also qualify if the spread of COVID-19 is low, according to metrics set by the state health agency.

Other counties that will see COVID-19 restrictions relaxed on Thursday are Baker, Curry, Grant and Tillamook. Eighteen counties in total will be in lower-risk status by the end of the week.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting