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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]

Baker County will return to the extreme-risk level for COVID-19 spread, and the resulting stringent restrictions on restaurants and other businesses, starting Friday, Jan. 15.

The county, which has been in the high-risk category since Jan. 1, will stay in the extreme category for at least two weeks.

As a county with a population between 15,000 and 30,000 (Baker County has about 16,800 residents), Baker will be in the extreme-risk category if it exceeds either of two measurements:

• a test positivity rate of 10% or higher during a two-week measuring period

• 60 or more new cases over the two-week measuring period

The county’s risk level, for Jan. 15-28, was decided based on COVID-19 figures from Dec. 27 through Jan. 9.

Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett said on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 12, that state officials pegged the county's total of new cases during the period at 64, while the county had a tally of 62.

Either way the figure exceeded the threshold.

The county's test positivity rate of 12% also put the county in the extreme category.

Bennett said he lobbied state officials, unsuccessfully, to allow the county to avoid moving back to the extreme category.

He said the Baker County Health Department's case investigations and contact tracing have not shown that restaurants and bars are a significant source, if at all, of infections.

"We're not happy," Bennett said. "It's not what we wanted."

The difference in restrictions between the high and extreme risk levels applies largely to restaurants, bars, fitness centers and gyms, theaters and museums.

Restaurants and bars

• Extreme risk: Indoor dining prohibited; outdoor dining allowed with a maximum of 50 people, six people, from no more than two households, per table. Required closure at 11 p.m.

• High risk: Indoor dining allowed, with a limit of 25% of capacity or 50 people, including customers and staff, whichever is fewer; required closure at 11 p.m.

Indoor fitness centers, gyms, theaters and museums

• Extreme risk: Prohibited

• High risk: Maximum of 25% of capacity or 50 total people, whichever is fewer

Faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, cemeteries

• Extreme risk: Indoor maximum of 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer; 150 people outdoors

• High risk: Indoor maximum of 25% of capacity or 150 people, whichever is fewer; 200 people outdoors

Long-term care facilities

• Extreme risk: Outside visits only

• High risk: Visits allowed, including indoors

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