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Linn County set to enter Phase I of reopening plan

County Commissioners are preparing to balance getting back to work on resuscitating the economy while keeping the public safe.

Posted: May 14, 2020 4:56 PM
Updated: May 14, 2020 6:23 PM

Albany, Ore. -- The Linn County Board of Commissioners woke up slightly nervous this morning but were relieved when they found out their county was approved for phase i of the governors reopening plan.

"I raced to work, got here a little early this morning, just to read the email.," jokes County Commissioner Will Tucker. "And the email said we can open."

Governor Kate Brown's plan to reopen counties across the state in phases begins tomorrow in Linn County, and for three weeks the county needs to see a decline of CoVid-19 prevalance, sufficient contact tracing infrastructure, hospital capacity and personal protective equipment, to name a few. The delicate balance of keeping the public safe and healthy while trying to repair a decimated Linn County economy will be one of the biggest challenges the area has faced. 

"We had the chambers of Albany and Lebanon here two weeks ago and they estimate between them that 20-30 percent of their businesses will not recover," explains Tucker. "Each business has to make a decision about can you open your business safely during this time."

For some businesses, the difficulty isn't just in rehiring staff and preparing for life in a Phase I world, but in whether or not it is prudent to operate at less than full capacity. For the last couple of weeks, Linn County has been out front in terms of pushing for the economy to reopen but consumer confidence is as important as the open sign in a business window.

"I would encourage the public to carefully evaluate the business you're going into," Tucker mentions. "Do you feel safe in that business. Do not go into a place where you don't feel safe."

Ad the hope is that as long as businesses in the area as well as consumers adhere by proper hygiene and social distancing guidelines, things will move smoothly into phase ii.

"If you're gonna be out, respect the others," says Tucker. "You're not wearing a mask for you. You're wearing a mask for others and to protect others." 

Perhaps most importantly, Tucker hopes that businesses abide by guidelines so the rest of the county doesn't have to wait for Phase II any longer than it needs to. 

"I would hope that all of law enforcement, all of my health inspectors, all of my planning and building inspectors. They would give guidance, they would give counsel and we'd look at resistance to work with us and that's where we would talk about doing something. I hope I don't have to get there."

"This is a, I hope not a new long term normal, certainly a new normal. And part of [Linn County's] success in phase I which will allow [Linn County} to go to phase II is how our statistics and how things happen going into phase II."

With the necessary parameters met in three weeks time, further restrictions can be eased as counties can apply for Phase II of reopening Oregon. Tucker believes that personal responsibility, from consumers to business owners, will be key in this period to ensuring the path to getting the state's economy back on track occurs alongside lowering rates of CoVid-19. 

"I encourage you as a consumer and the public as a consumer to watch carefully and I hope that businesses behave carefully and respectfully and if we all can do that I think we can go through phase I and continue onto phase II."

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