Gov. Brown announces ‘2 week extension’ for counties nearing ‘extreme risk’

JACKSON CO., Ore. — Thursday afternoon, the state announced positive news for Jackson County and perhaps a temporary lifeline for businesses hurt by the pandemic. Jackson County was able to drop into the ‘high risk’ category last Friday, but the metrics show it probably won’t stay in the state’s 2nd highest ‘risk level’ tier.

Now, the state’s giving some counties more leeway. Governor Kate Brown announced counties facing going back to ‘extreme risk,’ like Jackson County, have a two-week extension to drive down growing case rates. However, business advocates said it’s difficult to even call this ‘extension’ a victory.

“The two week on and off open/close has certainly been a challenge,” said Terry Hopkins, with the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. The ORLA is essentially, a statewide business advocate. Hopkins said, adapting to the ever-changing COVID-19 rules has been a struggle.

“It’s costly, and its not just a financial cost. It’s a cost to the employees and childcare and their ability to plan,” said Hopkins.  ORLA said while these rules have been put in place with good intentions, the effects have really hurt businesses.

Thursday afternoon… Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a two week extension for counties facing moves back to ‘extreme risk.’ Counties like Jackson County.

“You’re pretty desperate for victories when you look at this as a victory, because it’s ultimately not good news if we slide backwards,” said Brad Hicks, President and CEO of the Chamber of Medford and Jackson County.

In short, if a county moves from ‘extreme’ into a lesser risk level and has a chance of moving back, the state will allow a two week extension. The state says this will allow counties to focus on dropping daily case rates and give local businesses time to create plans for operation.

“Honestly, I view this as a small win when we see the numbers trending the way that we do,” said Hopkins. If, at the end of the additional two weeks, cases are still in the ‘extreme’ category, the county will move to that level.

“This routine of being open for two weeks and then closed for two weeks and then open for two weeks and then closed for two weeks. Even with an additional two weeks it’s a little like naming your dog ‘Stay,'” said Hicks.

This struggle is something Hicks says he’s seen throughout the pandemic. Over the course of the pandemic, he said the Chamber went from having roughly 1,500 businesses to 1,300 under its wing. He says some businesses simply can’t afford to be part of the chamber and some have closed entirely.

“If we closer down again in the next few weeks there is probably another round of businesses which are simply hanging on by a thread,” said Hicks.  From a public health perspective, Dr. Shames says he’s pleased with the extension. “Its exactly what I would have recommended to her. In fact, I had recommended it but I hadn’t said it yet,” he said.

The Governor says case rates across the state are declining and Dr. Shames said despite our rise in daily case numbers, deaths are not rising.

Dr. Shames said it looks like Jackson County will head back to the ‘extreme level’ if cases continue to rise. Something positive to note, he says hospitalizations are no where near critical. Governor Brown says this change will continue until further notice.

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Madison LaBerge
Madison LaBerge is the anchor of NBC5 News Weekends at 6 and 11. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Madison is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She loves living in the Pacific Northwest. She can't get over "how green everything is!" When Madison is not at work, she looks for new and exciting cooking recipes and explores Southern Oregon. Feel free to send her story ideas or the address of your favorite Mexican food restaurant!
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