Linn County gets green light for Phase 1 of COVID-19 re-opening

Linn County was approved to reopen Friday, May 15, as part of Phase 1 of Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan for Oregon.
Restrictions related to the reopening process are determined by the state. Counties must demonstrate that local systems (private and public) are in place to continue providing a public health response to COVID-19.
The rules allow limited reopening of restaurants and bars, personal services, gyms and malls. Gatherings of up to 25 people allowed for recreational, social, cultural, civic or faith events – with physical distancing requirements.
“A lot of the restrictions and requirements I already was doing,” said Mellissa de Ann Barnard, owner of Curls and Pearls Salon and Spa. “Our industry is very clean.”
Barnard said she would reopen her business Friday, May 15, after having been shut down since the end of March.
Her new procedures to gaurd against COVID include changing capes and aprons for every client, wearing a mask, and spraying down the room with a heavy Lysol solution in between clients.
“We’re probably going to end up wearing scrubs for a while and keeping a pair of shoes there, and changing our whole outfits at work,” she said.
Linn County’s application to begin Phase 1 was developed by county public health officials “with the support of our local cities, chambers and Samaritan Health.
Their plan met or exceeded the governor’s requirements for testing capabilities, contact tracing, PPE supplies and finding designating isolation facilities,” according to a statement issued by the county May 14.
“The public is asked to be diligent in maintaining social distancing to avoid spikes in positive cases.
If appropriate precautions are not taken, the county is at risk to return to ‘stay at home’ conditions, including closing vital local businesses for another duration. Linn County Commissioners call on the citizens and businesses to take the safety guidance to heart and keep everyone safe.”
At least 21 days must pass before Linn County can request moving to Phase 2. In order to be approved and keep moving through the phases, Linn County must be able to demonstrate and maintain several key things, including:
♦ Decreasing COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days;
♦ Maintaining sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel and first responders;
♦ Maintaining sufficient contact tracing resources; and
♦ Maintaining sufficient testing capacity to track the disease.
Guidelines that will be in place for the second phase of reopening have yet to be determined, according to the state.
Phase 3 – mass gatherings such as major concerts or sporting events with live audiences – will require a reliable treatment or vaccine to be available.
Strawberry Festival organizers cancelled this year’s festival on April 20 after previously postponing it until the July 4 weekend.
Organizers of the Oregon Jamboree announced on May 13 that they are cancelling this year’s festival.
More details on the plans are available at the governor’s COVID-19 Status Website at govstatus.egov.com/reopening-oregon.
“Approval for Phase 1 is a positive indicator of our collective efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Linn County and our ability to respond to outbreaks,” the county statement said. “The public needs to continue their efforts to help get Linn County completely back to work, back to school and help slow the spread.”
As of Thursday morning, May 14, the Oregon Health Authority has reported 107 cases of COVID-19 in Linn County, with a total of eight deaths attributed to the disease.
Statewide, the death total is 137, with a total of 3,479 cases reported.
County commissioners and other officials had been working to get the state to approve a Phase 1 status for the county.
In particular, the Linn County Parks and Recreation Department has been opening parts of the system that had been closed, with more scheduled to open May 15.
In response to state-mandated closures, Linn County had to close camping at year-round campgrounds, like Waterloo and River Bend; and while re-opening for camping, the county will keep some spaces that are too close to each other closed.
“To a certain extent, some of this isn’t unusual,” said County Parks Director Brian Carroll. Lewis Creek, a day-use park at Foster Lake, is closed as normal at this point. Some seasonal camping usually begins opening prior to Spring Break, and all camping is usually open by Memorial Day weekend.
With the sunshine coming out, “we’re probably going to see a pretty high use of our campgrounds once they are open,” Carroll said. The county has canceled reservations week by week instead of officially closing the parks. That will allow those who have reservations to move forward with their camping plans.
“The toughest part of this is we had furloughed part-time staff,” Carroll said. Without that staff, the county has no way to keep restrooms clean, and bringing on staff to take care of cleaning is one possible delay facing parks officials.
Reservations may be made at linnparks.com/parks/find-a-location, by emailing [email protected] or calling (541) 967-3917.