April 28, 2021

Multnomah County is among the 15 counties moving into “Extreme” risk, beginning Friday, April 30, 

Governor Kate Brown announced Tuesday.

Moving from “High” back to “Extreme” risk means restaurants may offer outdoor dining only, and gyms and indoor entertainment capacity drops back sharply. Residents of long-term care facilities may only receive outdoor visits.

The move has no impact on schools. 

Brown implemented her reopening framework Dec. 3 following a statewide “freeze”. The state evaluates risk based on a county’s rate of disease and percent of people who test positive for the virus, as well as statewide hospitalization numbers.

Multnomah County moved Dec. 3 from the statewide freeze to “Extreme” risk, downshifting to “High” risk Feb. 12, and from “High” to “Moderate” risk March 12. The County was reclassified as “High” risk with additional restrictions beginning April 9.

The announcement comes as cases and positivity rise and hospital beds fill. Last week Multnomah County’s case rate topped 200 per 100,000 people and test positivity topped 5 percent, doubling from just a few weeks earlier. Positivity rates rise to 12 percent among Latinx residents  and 8 among African American and Black residents.

Case investigators in Multnomah County received more than 1,000 new cases last week, a nearly 40 percent increase over the previous week; with investigators struggling to keep pace, the County’s Communicable Disease Services has slimmed down the lengthy list of questions investigators ask during interviews and are asking cases to reach out to close contacts. Investigators are prioritizing identifying outbreaks and connecting people to wraparound services to allow them to safely isolate and quarantine.

“We are at a critical juncture,” said Public Health Director Jesica Guernsey. “Our health systems are under pressure. And we are still working to get vaccines to two-thirds of our residents.”

Of the more-than-1,000 cases received last week, fewer than 10 people had been fully vaccinated, epidemiological data shows. However, case investigators say many people they’ve spoken to contracted the virus after receiving the first dose of a two-dose vaccine.

“Vaccination is a first-line defense against COVID-19, so we hope people will get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Guernsey said. “But please remember you’re not fully vaccinated until two weeks after you get all your shots.”

Don’t let up on prevention, Guernsey said. Wear a mask, keep a distance and opt for the outdoors. The rule of thumb is you need at least two out of three for good prevention.

And officials ask people to follow federal health recommendations: don't travel if you are not fully vaccinated. Even fully vaccinated travelers, while less likely to get and spread COVID-19, should wear a mask, stay six feet from others and avoid crowds.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and the Board of Commissioners in a letter to Gov. Brown Wednesday urged the state to fast track a $20 million emergency relief package for small businesses.

"Acting quickly to both slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus and provide robust business relief for affected industries is crucial to helping our communities stay safe and healthy," the letter read, "while also stemming the financial harm these restrictions will have on our communities."