PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon's southeastern-most county must roll back its coronavirus reopening status to Phase I, Governor Kate Brown announced on Thursday.
The change in Malheur County is effective Monday. Brown's office said that Malheur County will remain in Phase I for at least 21 days, with state officials checking in on a weekly basis.
Malheur County has been on the state's COVID-19 "watch list" since July 3, and Brown's office said that the virus has been spreading rapidly ever since, even with contact tracing support from the Oregon Health Authority.
“Over the past month, COVID-19 cases in Malheur County have risen so much that restrictions must be put back in place or we risk further illnesses and death in the region,” said Governor Brown. “I know this change is difficult, but immediate action is necessary in order to reduce the spread of the disease and protect all those who call Malheur County home.”
As of Thursday, OHA reported that Malheur County had 851 coronavirus cases and 3,484 negative tests, in addition to 15 deaths. The county's case rate of 266 per 10,000 people is the third highest in the state, and Malheur's test positivity rate is 26 percent — far higher than the state's overall rate of roughly 6 percent.
More than half of Malheur's most recent cases were considered "sporadic" and could not be traced back to a known source.
Recreational sports, swimming pools, and events and venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys, and arcades remain closed in Phase I. Non-essential local travel is allowed, and personal services businesses are allowed to operate with health and safety measures in place.
Restaurants and bars are open for dine-in service until 10 p.m. with health and safety measures in place. Indoor social gatherings remain capped at 10 people as long as physical distancing is maintained, while other gatherings — including faith-based, civic, and cultural groups — are limited to 50 indoors and 50 outdoors.
“A step back like this is a reminder for all of us that this disease will be with us for the foreseeable future. We must continue to take measures to slow its spread or we risk further restrictions. Oregonians must continue to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, and practice good hygiene,” Brown said.
Malheur's rollback isn't the first in the state. Umatilla and Morrow counties were previously moved back by Governor Brown, while Union County opted for a voluntarily rollback after a large outbreak.