Linn and Benton County seek Phase 2 reopening approval

Linn and Benton County seek Phase 2 reopening approval

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Mid-valley elected officials are asking for Gov. Kate Brown’s approval to move into Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

The Linn County Board of Commissioners submitted an application late Friday, 22 days after the county entered Phase 1. The Benton County Commission followed suit on Tuesday. Saturday will mark three weeks since Benton began reopening.

The state requires a 21-day minimum in each of the reopening phases, and counties must meet numerous other benchmarks before moving into the next phase in the process.

Both counties attested they have met or exceeded all of the Oregon Health Authority’s requirements for approval.

Phase II would allow gatherings of up to 100 persons, limited visitation at nursing homes, plus optional increased work in office spaces.

As of Tuesday, other counties that have applied to enter Phase II are Baker, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lane, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler.

“We understand the governor may be looking at Saturday target dates,” Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist said. “As of Friday, we have tested 986 people and only seven or eight tests were positive, and that’s less than 1%.”

Nyquist added, “We feel like we are in pretty good shape in part because the residents of Linn County have followed the state’s guidelines and used good sense. We encourage them to continue to do so.”

According to Linn County’s request for approval:

• The number of total hospitalizations remains low, three maximum and as of Friday, one current patient.

• The number of persons being tested per week exceeds the state’s guideline of 30 per 10,000 residents.

• Sufficient testing sites: Last week Linn County staff went to 19 senior care facilities and took samples from staff and residents. On Friday alone, they tested between 150 and 200 staff members at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

• The benchmark would require Linn County to have at least 19 contact tracers and the county has 30, including Spanish speakers.

• The county has an agreement with a local motel in the event isolation rooms are needed.

• Linn County has sufficient health care capacity through Samaritan Health Services hospitals.

Benton County Commissioner Pat Malone noted during a board meeting Tuesday morning that the county’s caseload has remained relatively low “because most of us behaved ourselves” by following social distancing and other measures and taking other precautionary steps, but he also warned that continued vigilance would be required to avoid a spike in new infections.

Commissioner Xan Augerot said she was confident adequate safeguards are in place.

“I feel comfortable with where we are,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s going to be a controlled roller-coaster.”

Benton County’s application states the county:

• Has had timely follow-up on all positive cases.

• Has implemented successful contact tracing, with more than 20 trained individuals (well over the county’s minimum level of 14) and the capability of training more if need be.

• Has had no significant increase in cases or hospitalizations.

• Has at least a 30-day supply for PPE for all first responders as well as medical personnel at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

Linn County has had 118 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the novel coronavirus. The majority of the county’s nine deaths were residents at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.

Benton County has had 56 cases and five deaths, including three former residents of the Corvallis Manor nursing home who died after being transferred to hospital care.

Oregon has recorded 4,335 cases since the coronavirus pandemic began, with 157 known deaths from COVID-19

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