July 13, 2020

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,

This week, I announced that Multnomah County is not ready to apply for Phase 2 of reopening. 

People throughout our community are working hard to slow the spread of COVID-19 by keeping their social circles small, staying close to home, practicing good hygiene and wearing face coverings. These choices aren’t just for you and your household — they protect others and the whole community around you. All of our individual actions add up to our collective response to the virus, which controls how well we can slow the spread of COVID-19.

And as researchers continue to study this virus, we are still learning more about how it impacts young people, how severe the illness can be, and the potential for lingering health issues, even after someone recovers. 

It’s no secret that businesses — large and small, in our neighborhoods and across the country — have been hurting and continue to struggle as a result of the pandemic. So I understand the desire many have to move into Phase 2 quickly, particularly in the interest of opening up more businesses in our community and helping those who have been out of work since the Stay Home orders started. 

However, as we’ve seen in the news, areas that reopen too much too quickly see surges of positive cases and hospitalizations, prompting businesses to shut back down. Combined with our region’s rising COVID-19 cases, it’s in the interest of our community’s health and economic stability that we proceed in a way that ensures our reopening can be both safe and sustained, rather than rushed. The best thing we can do is to continue taking steps that keep everyone as safe as possible until there's a vaccine.

Our goal isn't to race into Phase 2. Multnomah County is committed to moving cautiously toward reopening to avoid taking one step forward, only to be forced to take two steps back. Phase 2 is a big step toward business as usual, and the virus is not sufficiently contained to allow us to take that step.

Because of that, we are going to take a careful look at our numbers and how behaviors since mid-May are affecting our infection rates. Our collective choices over the last holiday weekend — and the choices we continue to make daily — will determine the number and rate of infections we’ll see in three weeks.

Our Public Health Division has ramped up our capacity to perform contact tracing of positive cases and outreach to impacted communities. Access to testing continues to increase. And we’re providing support to those infected, as well as their households, so they can isolate until they’ve recovered.

Further, the health and safety of our community extend beyond county lines. We continue to work closely with Washington and Clackamas counties, communicating frequently about our respective public health data and coordinating efforts to provide all of our residents with accurate, timely and consistent information. The assessments and decisions regarding when to apply for Phase 2 will be made in conjunction with our regional partners.

Until it’s clear the virus is better controlled, we’re asking people to continue to work to slow the spread. Our individual actions can make the difference for everyone. This pandemic has been a clear reminder of how deeply we are connected to and rely on each other. Let’s keep stepping up.

Sincerely,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair

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