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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]

With Baker County’s weekly total of COVID-19 cases dropping to its lowest level in more than a month, County Commissioner Mark Bennett said he hopes the county will drop from extreme risk level starting this Friday, May 7.

That would allow restaurants and bars to resume indoor dining.

Baker County and 14 other counties moved to the extreme risk level on Friday, April 30.

From April 25 to May 1, the county reported 19 new cases. That’s fewer than half the total new cases for the two previous Sunday-Saturday weeks — 42 from April 18-24, and 58 from April 11-17. The last Sunday-Saturday period with fewer than 19 new cases was March 14-20, when there were nine.

Bennett said on Monday morning, May 3, that although he’s pleased with the declining trend in the county’s COVID-19 case rate, it’s not certain that the county will move out of extreme risk this Friday, May 7.

Although state officials are reviewing county risk levels weekly rather than every other week as in the past, county decisions will continue to be based on their case count and test positivity numbers for a two-week period, said Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

There are two ways Baker County could move out of extreme risk.

The first is if the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 statewide drops below 300, or the seven-day percent increase in the hospitalization rate drops below 15%, Modie said.

As of Monday, there were 351 people hospitalized statewide for COVID-19 treatment, and the percent rate exceeded 15%, so that option appears unlikely.

The other possible way to move out of extreme risk is based on the county’s number of new cases for the two-week measuring period starting April 20, Modie said.

Baker County, as of Monday, May 3, had 59 new cases during that period. That would qualify the county to move to high risk, but by the narrowest margin — the threshold for extreme risk is 60 cases. In counties at high risk, restaurants and bars can have indoor dining up to 25% of their capacity or 50 total people, including staff, whichever is fewer.

OHA was scheduled to announce any changes to county risk levels today, May 4.

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