Douglas County Seeks Reopening Status For It And Four Neighboring Counties

Apr 23, 2020

Citing a decline in reported COVID-19 cases, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners is asking Governor Brown for a Phase 1 reopening this Saturday. 

Heat map of coronavirus cases and Oregon Governor Kate Brown (inset).
Credit Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use/ - Brian Bull / KLCC

As of this report’s filing (4/23 3:45pm), Douglas County has 23 confirmed cases and zero deaths. Commissioners say they’ll still require social distancing, as well as require face masks and increased sanitation for businesses such as barber shops and beauty salons. County officials point to their drive-through testing facility, and their healthcare capacity as signs of pandemic readiness.

The commissioners are also asking for Coos, Jackson, Curry, and Josephine counties to sign onto the letter. All are in southwestern Oregon which has seen collectively fewer cases compared to more densely populated, urban areas of Oregon.

The letter follows a dial-in forum between Governor Brown and county commissioners. 

As of press time, neither the Governor’s Office nor the Douglas County Board of Commissioners responded to request for comment.

WEB EXTRA: Below is the text of the letter by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.  

Honorable Governor Kate BrownOffice of the Governor900 Court Street NE, Suite 254Salem, OR 97301-4047 Dear Governor Brown, Thank you for organizing the call yesterday and providing a forum for County Commissioners to express our concerns and ask questions. As you well know, the main topic of conversation centered around allowing Oregonians an opportunity to get back to work and to get the economy moving again. You have said that you were in favor of a regional approach in reopening the economy as long as certain criteria were met. We understand the concern of an increase in COVID-19 cases once restrictions are eased and agree that a strategic approach in getting things reopened is necessary. On the call, you and your staff outlined three necessary planning steps needing to be in place before a regional approval would be considered. Those steps included three components of Gating Criteria, three components of our Core State of Preparedness, and a three phase reopening strategy. The three components of Gating Criteria included a declining number of people with symptoms, a declining number of cases, and adequate hospital capacity. In Southwestern Oregon, there have been very few cases, but where we have seen the most cases, there certainly has been a reduction in reported cases since the peak. We have seen a decline in the number of tests being administered as the number of people with symptoms has decreased. We also believe that we have adequate testing and hospital capacity, as well as thorough contingency planning should cases begin to increase at any point. The three components of Core State Preparedness included Robust Testing and Contact Tracing, Healthcare System Capacity, including PPE and surge Capacity, and Plans for Health and Safety. As you know, Douglas County implemented the first Drive Through Testing opportunity in the State, Douglas County has also funded a team of epidemiologists who have worked diligently to trace contacts of all cases of positive test results. Coos, Curry, Jackson, and Josephine Counties each still have very few cases and capacity to test anyone with symptoms in the foreseeable future. All five counties currently have healthcare capacity to manage the case load and beyond, but if other medical procedures are not allowed soon, they may not have, as hospitals have limited ability to bear the financial burden of being out of business. Our plans for health and safety are to still require social distancing, including the requirement to wear masks and heighten sanitation requirements for any situation where social distancing can’t be maintained (beauty salons, barber shops, etc.), to encourage those who can to continue to work from home to do so, to require anyone who is sick to stay home, and to provide free testing to any person referred by a medical professional. We will constantly monitor conditions and immediately to limit and mitigate any rebound in reporter cases. We are asking your consideration to consent to a Phase 1 reopening in Douglas, Coos, Curry, Jackson and Josephine Counties effective 4/25/2020 under the Federal Guidelines. Sincerely, DOUGLAS COUNTY, COOS COUNTY, JACKSON COUNTY, JOSEPHINE COUNTY & CURRY COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (end)

Copyright 2020, KLCC.