The Governor’s office announced Baker County is entering a two week ‘caution period’ beginning April 9 and continuing through April 22. Based on total COVID-19 case numbers and the percent of positive COVID-19 tests, Baker County qualified to move from ‘lower risk’ all the way to ‘extreme risk’. The Governor’s office press release explains, “Counties that reduced their COVID-19 spread enough to move down in risk level in the previous two week period, but see their numbers go back up in the next two-week period, are given a two-week caution period to re-focus efforts to drive back down creeping case numbers and give local businesses additional certainty in their plans for operating.”
Baker County moved from ‘moderate’ to ‘lower risk’ in the last two-week evaluation. During the ‘caution period’, Baker County will continue to operate under the ‘lower risk’ guidelines. If case numbers and percent of test positivity remain high over the next two weeks, Baker County will move to a higher risk level that will take effect on April 23.
Health Department Director Nancy Staten said, “We are doing everything we know to do to bring our case numbers down. We continue to provide education, we are contact-tracing and quarantining to keep the virus from spreading further, and we are providing vaccinations as we get doses. We are working as fast as we can to put this to an end and keep people from having to deal with the effects of COVID-19.”
Additionally, the Governor’s office announced a new statewide metric for determining when a county moves to the extreme risk level. The press release states, “ Beginning this week, for counties to move to (or remain in) Extreme Risk, they must meet the county metrics for case rates and percent positivity, plus a new statewide metric: COVID-19 positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average over the past week.
Counties that meet the criteria for Extreme Risk but for the statewide trigger will be assigned to High Risk.”
Commissioner Mark Bennett says, “Our case numbers have been high and it comes as no surprise we qualified for extreme risk. The caution period is saving us from having to go backwards, and our best shot at avoiding a jump at the end of April is for everyone to do what they can to keep everyone else healthy and get our cases numbers down again. I’ve been requesting the Governor’s office consider hospital capacity as a factor, since that’s the critical measure of whether someone will have access to care if they need it, and I’m glad to see this was taken into consideration and counties will not go back to extreme as long as hospital capacity isn’t strained.”
Specific guidance for each risk level is available on the Oregon Health Authority’s website.