Multnomah County will enter Phase 1 of Gov. Kate Brown's three-phase reopening plan this Friday, June 19. That means restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, fitness centers and other public-facing businesses can reopen—with significant spacing and cleanliness precautions to protect against spreading the coronavirus.
Brown announced she was approving the county's request to enter Phase 1 in a Wednesday afternoon press release—just six days after Brown said she was pushing the county's planned June 12 reopening back by at least a week due to a statewide uptick in new COVID- 19 cases.
"While Multnomah County has seen an increase in new cases recently, the county has not experienced an uptrend in new hospital admissions, and overall hospitalizations remain well within capacity," Brown said in the press release.
The most populous county in Oregon, Multnomah County is also the last county in the state to enter Phase 1.
In a press conference also held Wednesday afternoon, County Chair Deborah Kafoury called Brown's announcement "great news." Kafoury also noted that Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties will now be considered one region when eventually applying to enter Phase 2.
"That means the Portland Metro area will stay in Phase 1 together, and move forward as a region," Kafoury said, adding that many local residents live in one county but work in another. "This virus does not care about county lines."
Multnomah County Health Officer Jennifer Vines and Public Health Director Rachel Banks both said that as the county prepares to enter Phase 1, it's a time for people to continue to practice healthy habits like hand-washing and wearing a mask, rather than easing up on them.
"I want to emphasize that safety is relative," Vines said. "We expect cases to go up."
On June 24, Brown will begin requiring face coverings in public spaces for some densely populated counties, including those in the Portland Metro area. Exact rules surrounding this directive—such as how a person should wear a face covering while eating at a restaurant—are still being worked out.