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A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Restaurants and bars in Baker County can resume limited indoor dining on Friday, May 7, as the county drops from extreme to high risk level.

Gov. Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that the 15 counties which have been in extreme risk since April 30, including Baker, will move out of that level, which has the most stringent restrictions on businesses and activities.

The trigger for the change is a 0.1% difference in one key statewide metric — the percentage growth in COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals statewide.

Last month Brown announced that no county would be at extreme risk unless there were at least 300 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and the weekly percentage increase in hospitalizations was 15% or higher.

The state continues to exceed the former limit, with 345 patients statewide on Tuesday.

But the increase in hospitalizations was 14.9%.

“Oregon no longer meets the statewide metrics,” Brown said in a statement. “Based on today’s numbers, I am keeping my commitment to Oregonians.”

All 15 counties, including Baker, will move to high risk starting Friday.

At that level, restaurants and bars can have indoor dining at 25% of capacity or up to 50 total people, including workers, whichever is fewer.

Capacity limits are the same for fitness centers, theaters and museums.

Brown said last month that even if both statewide hospitalization limits were exceeded, individual counties could potentially drop from extreme risk based on their case counts and test positivity rates.

But Baker County would not have qualified, even though its case count and positivity rate have both dropped substantially over the past 10 days.

Although state officials are reviewing county risk levels every weekly rather than every two weeks, as in the past, they continue to assess counties on a two-week basis.

During the most recent two-week period, April 1 through May 1, Baker County had 61 new cases and a test positivity rate of 10.6%.

(The case total includes people who tested positive as well as presumptive cases — people who had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and were in close contact with someone who tested positive, but who didn’t test positive themselves. The county doesn’t separate positive tests and presumptive cases, listing the two together as total cases.)

The thresholds for extreme risk are 60 or more new cases over two weeks, and a positivity rate of 10% or higher.

The county’s two-week records exceeded the first metric by two cases, and the second by 0.7%.

However, during the second week both the case total (from 42 to 19) and positivity rate (from 13.6% to 7%) both dropped.

No return to extreme risk?

Brown said on Tuesday that she doesn’t expect any of the 15 counties to return to extreme risk “for the duration of the pandemic.”

She said last month that no county would remain at that level for more than three weeks, starting April 30.

Brown urged Oregonians to be vigilant in trying to reduce the spread of the virus.

“Let me be clear: across the state, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still high, and Oregon is not out of the woods yet,” Brown said. “With our statewide hospitalization rate stabilizing, our hospitals should have the capacity to continue treating patients with severe cases of COVID-19 and other serious medical conditions in the coming weeks.

“I know this will bring relief to many across the state. However, the lifting of Extreme Risk health and safety measures comes with great personal responsibility for us all,” Brown said.

The governor said her goal is to have the state fully open, with no risk levels and related restrictions, by the end of June. Brown said vaccinations are the key to meeting that goal.

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