By News-Register staff • 

Governor approves Yamhill County request to reopen

[Updated at 8:05 a.m. on Thursday, May 14]

Gov. Kate Brown has approved the request by the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners to reopen the county starting Friday.

"I want to be clear that reopening does not come without risks," the governor wrote to board chair Casey Kulla. "With every restriction lifted we know transmission of the virus has the potential to increase."

A phase 1 opening allows restaurants, bars and tasting rooms to reopen with social distancing and limits on group size, and includes a 10 p.m. curfew.

Barbers, salons and massage businesses also can reopen by appointment only and with protective equipment.

The governor had previously approved a statewide lift starting Friday on non-restaurant retail businesses. 

Kulla said this morning that he's "thrilled and terrified" at the prospect of the county moving into Phase I of Oregon’s reopening.

"Thrilled, because our residents, workers and businesses deserve the chance to grow and thrive amidst the pandemic," he said. "Terrified, because we remain a rural Oregon county amidst a global novel virus pandemic, and as a small county, our Public Health staff will remain on high alert and vigilant to outbreaks.

"Each of us have the personal responsibility to continue listening to our public health folks and following the simple guidance of six foot distance, wear face coverings if you are able, and proper hand sanitation. We will reemerge safely, but it will take all hands on deck.”

The county sent its request to the governor on Monday after a special session in which the county commissioners and Public Health Director Lindsey Manfrin said they were comfortable with asking the governor to reopen the county.

Manfrin said the county did not currently have anyone hospitalized from the disease. Yamhill County reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the county's total to 53. Seven residents of a retirement home have died, but no deaths have been reported since April 26.

“Some people have said to me we’re moving too slowly and other people say we’re moving too quickly and I look at everything that’s happened and I know we’re meeting the requirements,” Kulla said on Monday.

Manfrin told commissioners the county was not looking at overall cases to make its determination, but at the numbers of people seeking emergency care or needing hospitalization.

The county’s recovery framework states Region Two, which encompasses Yamhill, Marion, Polk, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, now has the ability to test 31 of every 10,000 people in a week, which the state considers sufficient. Oregon’s minimum testing requirement is 30 per 10,000, per week.

The state also is requiring a minimum of 15 contact tracers per 100,000 population. Based on that ratio, the county says it will need 16. The county’s plan states that it currently has 13 trained contact tracers, and expects to have three more trained by Wednesday.

The plan also included letters from both Providence Newberg Hospital and Willamette Valley Medical Center, stating that they have adequate beds and protective equipment to handle a surge in patients.




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