Baker County Reopening Plan Approved


Governor Brown approved Baker County’s Reopening Plan today, allowing some of the restrictions enacted under Governor Brown’s Stay Home Save Lives Executive Order 20-12 to begin lifting on May 15. The updated Reopening Plan is available on the Baker County COVID-19 website,, along with reopening guidance for businesses from the Oregon Health Authority.

Commissioner Mark Bennett said, “Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to keep our community safe and get to where county businesses can reopen their doors. We still have a long way to go before we can fully reopen. Please continue the efforts to protect our health and our business’ vitality, because our community depends on both.”

The state COVID-19 Resources for Oregonians website,, explains that Phase 1 of the Reopening Oregon Plan allows limited reopening, under specific safety guidelines, of restaurants and bars for sit-down service; personal care and services businesses, including barbers and salons; and in-person gatherings of up to 25 people. Counties must remain in Phase I and continue to meet the state criteria for at least 21 days before becoming eligible to advance to Phase II. If counties begin to see significant increases in COVID-19 cases or community spread, the Oregon Health Authority will work with local public health officials to evaluate what actions should be taken. Significant growth in COVID-19 spread could necessitate a county moving back from Phase I to a stay-home status. More details on Phases II and III are forthcoming.

In order to be approved to enter Phase 1, Baker County had to demonstrate that there have been fewer than 5 hospitalizations for COVID-19, medical providers and public health have sufficient COVID-19 testing capabilities and the ability to provide quick ‘contact tracing’ for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, have established plans for isolating and quarantining new cases, have sufficient hospital capacity to handle a surge in cases, and have enough personal protective equipment for health care workers. Baker County was found to meet all of these criteria.

The Baker County Business Operations and Recovery group is reaching out to businesses to provide information, resources and assistance for owners preparing to reopen. The group has held conference calls with each business sector this week. Anyone who would like to be added to the mailing list can visit the business page at or call 541-523-0015.

As customers return to local businesses, many things may be different as businesses put precautions in place to reduce the chance for spread of the virus, such as asking customers to wear a face covering, sanitize their hands upon entering, and maintain 6 feet of spacing between patrons. County officials ask the community to remain patient through these changes in order to stay safe and stop the spread while supporting local businesses. Businesses and customers with questions are encouraged to contact Business Liaison Jeff Nelson at 541-523-0015.

Contact Tracing


The COVID-19 event has added new terms to everyday discussions, including the term “contact tracing.” Baker County Health Department Nursing Supervisor Alicia Hills heads case investigation and contact tracing for the county, and shares information about how it works.

The Baker County Health Department completes case investigation for any person who has been diagnosed with a reportable communicable disease, such as meningitis, tuberculosis and COVID-19. Test results are reported to the county even if the test is done outside of Oregon.

Contact tracing begins with Baker County Health Department contacting the person who has received a positive test result for an interview, usually by telephone. The interviewer asks for information about symptoms, people who may have been exposed to the disease, and other questions specific to the disease. The second step is for the Health Department to call the contacts who were identified and inform them they may have been exposed. During this call, information is provided about the disease and possible symptoms, if testing is needed, treatment options (for diseases where treatment is available), and how to limit spreading the disease to others.

Contact tracing is an effective tool to contain the spread of disease. If confirmed cases and their contacts isolate while they are contagious, it prevents the disease from spreading through the community.

Any confirmed cases and contacts who have been exposed to COVID-19 are directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate, with the length of time varying based on multiple factors. The Baker County Health Department works with contacts and their unique situations to establish when and if testing is needed.

The Health Department received a number of requests to release more information about the confirmed COVID-19 case last week, however, details about any individual cannot be released due to federal and state privacy laws. Public health departments are prohibited by law from sharing information that they obtain in the course of a public health investigation.

Case investigation and contact tracing will continue for each confirmed case throughout the duration of this event. If you are identified as someone who may have come in contact with an individual who tests positive, you will be contacted by the Health Department. Hills says please make sure your voicemail boxes are set up and check that they are not full so the contact tracing group can leave a message.

Baker County Business Liaison to Help Businesses Reopen


Today, Baker County hired a business liaison to assist business owners and customers through the reopening process. Jeff Nelson, who is also the Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center, will be working to help businesses understand and implement the new guidance from the Oregon Health Authority as they prepare to reopen to the public, as well as customers with questions or concerns.

Nelson will be joining the Business Operations and Recovery group within the local Incident Command Team. He says, “I look forward to working with businesses through all these changes, I’m here to help. Feel free to contact me anytime.” Jeff Nelson can be contacted at 541-523-0015, or by email at Resources for businesses are being added frequently to the County’s website, Businesses with questions, or who may be struggling to find the personal protective equipment needed to meet OHA guidelines, are encouraged to get in contact.

Baker County’s Reopening Plan has not yet been approved by the Governor’s office. The County received notification on Friday that the Governor’s office had passed the plan on to Oregon Health Authority for review. County officials are optimistic the plan meets the state’s review criteria and Baker County will be approved to enter Phase 1 of the Reopening Oregon process soon. The Governor’s plan indicates some counties may start reopening as soon as May 15.