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5 Oregon counties enter lower risk, ‘vaccinated sections’ allowed in some businesses

Five Oregon counties will see reduced COVID-19 restrictions starting Thursday. Businesses in Baker, Curry, Grant, Multnomah and Tillamook counties will soon be serving more customers. Restaurants, gyms, and theaters in these counties will be able to raise their capacity to 50%, and malls, retail stores, and faith centers can operate at 75% capacity.

This brings the total number of Oregon counties in the “lower risk” category up to 18 out of the state’s 36. Most counties in this category have had more than 14 days pass with “minimal circulation,” (the criteria for which varies depending on the county’s size). Others, like Multnomah County, qualify because more than 65% of their residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and the county has submitted plans detailing how it plans to close vaccine equity gaps.

There are three counties at “moderate risk,” and 15 at “high risk.”

The risks of getting COVID-19 remain varied across the state, and the county risk levels may not reflect the entire picture. Although over 65% of Multnomah County residents are vaccinated, the county saw 1,674 new cases over a 14-day period, enough to put them in “high risk’' if fewer people were vaccinated. Deschutes County, on the other hand, has almost hit the vaccination benchmark and is classified as “lower risk” based on the number of new COVID-19 cases — yet there are no longer any intensive care unit beds available in the region.

There’s another big change coming this week to Oregon restaurants, theaters, faith centers and several other types of venues where people gather. Starting Thursday, counties in “lower risk” will be able to open “vaccine sections” that can exceed state-set capacity limits. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office is supposed to provide additional details for businesses by Thursday.

Multnomah County officials advised residents to continue wearing masks, because circulation is still high, and there is no easy way to tell if someone without a mask is vaccinated or not.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting