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Live updates: Pools and playgrounds allowed to reopen across Oregon

Playgrounds and public pools will soon be open across Oregon.

These recreational facilities have been closed in some counties since March, when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown enacted her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders to curb the spread of COVID-19. While pools and playgrounds are already open in counties that have qualified to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening. In Phase 1 counties, pools and playgrounds have remained closed.

But in a press conference Friday, Brown announced that these counties, too, will be able to open playgrounds and pools in every phase of reopening.

“We’re gradually looking at reopening some lower-risk activities, such as reopening public pools and playgrounds,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist. “We are moving forward with science and safety in mind.”

Sidelinger said that reopening is possible for two reasons: the declining COVID-19 transmission rate in the state and ever-increasing evidence that shows transmission is much less likely outdoors, including in swimming pools.

State health officials celebrated falling COVID-19 transmission rates on Friday and also urged Oregonians to avoid social gatherings despite the temptations of the coming Labor Day weekend.

At the current transmission rate of 0.9, there are roughly nine new coronavirus infections for every 10 people who currently have the virus — a trend that will lead to a gradual decline in infections if it continues.

“This is tremendous progress, but it will only continue if we keep up the pressure,” Sidelinger said in a statement. “We cannot ease up and allow Labor Day social gatherings to send our rate back up. This virus remains extremely contagious and spreads very quickly. It would not take much for cases to rise again.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority, about 560 people contract COVID-19 in Oregon each day — a number that’s higher than the state’s official count because it includes an estimate of those who contract the virus but are never diagnosed.

In a forecast of the coming three weeks, the agency outlines three possible scenarios:

“We’ve made great progress through hard work and sacrifice, but those gains are tenuous,” Sidelinger said. “It’s on every one of us to maintain the progress we’ve made against COVID-19, and together we can do it.”

Oregon reported five new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the virus’ death toll in the state to 475.

The state also confirmed 268 new coronavirus diagnoses, bringing confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 27,601.

OHA said all of the people whose deaths were announced Friday had underlying medical conditions. They were:

Another 27 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Clark County, Washington, the local public health department reported Thursday. To date, 2,715 Clark County residents have tested positive for the virus, and 51 have died.

Since the start of the pandemic, 75,856 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington, and 1,945 have died, according to the latest counts available from the state.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting