For the most up-to-date information about Multnomah County's COVID-19 response, please check our COVID-19 website, and the County’s Twitter and Facebook channels, often. You can also contact my office if you have any other questions.

Dear friends and neighbors,

On Friday, with permission from the governor, previously closed retail stores and childcare centers across the state were allowed to reopen, provided they can comply with new guidelines.

This is, undoubtedly, a significant turning point in our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us have never experienced a disruption to our daily lives like we have over the last two months, so this reopening — as limited as it is — represents a small step toward a new normal. And by all means, let’s support our local retailers and childcare service providers, as long as we can do so safely.

But to reopen any other types of businesses and activities, Multnomah County must meet a series of prerequisites set by the state before applying to enter Phase 1 of the state’s reopening process. You can track our progress toward these requirements through the County’s new public dashboard, which we released on Thursday.

Multnomah County’s density, diversity and the extent to which the illness is already in our community, however, make us unique in Oregon. We know that reopening, no matter to what degree or how cautiously, will result in more positive cases. And when that happens, we have to be sure that we can continue to serve and protect communities at highest risk of severe illness. That includes our elders, those living in long-term care facilities, congregate settings like shelters and jails, and Black, Indigenous and other people of color who are at higher risk of underlying conditions and more likely to be frontline workers.

So in addition to the state’s metrics, the County has also chosen to include additional public health and equity standards as we prepare for Phase 1. 

Reopening dashboard screenshot
The County's new dashboard tracks our progress toward meeting the state's Phase 1 prerequisites, as well our own additional public health and equity standards.
We mourn the 55 people we’ve already lost to this virus. And we’ve seen nearly 1,000 people with confirmed cases, with many more likely who just haven’t been tested. If we open too much, too quickly, we risk seeing these numbers climb, worsening current health inequities and overwhelming our hospitals along the way. 

That’s what I mean when I say that Multnomah County is committed to opening with care.

But the only way we can reopen with such consideration and care is with sufficient federal help — help that, right now, seems uncertain. Multnomah County is the public health authority leading our region through this pandemic and the largest safety net in the state. We are one of the main engines of the state’s economy. And we’re home to about 20 percent of all Oregonians, but we have seen 27 percent of Oregon’s cases and 40 percent of its deaths. 

Yet Multnomah County has received less than 2 percent of the $1.7 billion allocated to Oregon regional governments so far through the first federal CARES Act package. We will put our $28 million to good use for this community. But it is nowhere near enough to help us maintain our current efforts. The blunt formulas used to calculate how much the County receives hurt the people of Multnomah County and could compromise our ability to reopen and recover safely. 

In the meantime, Multnomah County will continue the work of making progress toward our Phase 1 requirements and keeping each other safe. The strength, compassion and resilience I have seen from our community during these trying times give me great assurance that we can, and will, move forward together.

Sincerely,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair

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