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County Commissioners Send Governor Reopening Baker County Plan

The Baker County Commissioners today sent a plan to Governor Brown’s office outlining a phased approach to reopening businesses, organizations and events in the County that are currently closed by the Governor’s Stay Home, Save Lives Executive Order. Baker County’s highest priority is the health and safety of the community. County officials also recognize that in our community, every business is an essential business. The plan proposes three phases for reopening different sectors, and includes measures that can be put in place to reduce the chance of transmitting COVID-19.

Baker County’s plan was developed through coordination between the Baker County Commissioners, Baker County Health Department, St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City, and the County Public Health Officer. It was developed based on Governor Kate Brown’s Framework for Reopening Oregon that was introduced on April 14 for restarting “public life and business while maintaining healthy Oregon communities.” Baker County’s plan has been sent to the Governor’s Office for review, but County officials caution they don’t yet know when the plan may be approved or implemented.

Commissioner Mark Bennett stated, “We expect there will be questions from the Governor’s office, and we may need to make adjustments or additions to the plan. However, we know how important it is to our community as a whole to be able to reopen, and we assure you this is our highest priority. Moving forward will probably be slower than anyone would like to see, but we recognize we’ll need to approach reopening thoughtfully but steadily to avoid having to start over. We look forward to hearing from the Governor’s office on our proposed plan. If our plan is approved, we will begin working with businesses and organizations to get ready to reopen.”

The County plan recognizes “adaptive management” will be needed to update the plan as the situation evolves, and creates a new Business/Medical Case Review Unit as part of the Incident Command structure, to “continuously monitor the situation and identified Management Action Point metrics as part of an information-based, phased approach to re-opening.” The plan addresses that the County continues to have no COVID-19 positive cases, declining visits to medical clinics with COVID-19 like symptoms; sufficient personal protective equipment and hospital surge capacity; a testing, tracing and isolation strategy; and strategies for protecting the most vulnerable populations, including those living in long term care facilities or experiencing homelessness.

The reopening plan is divided into three phases with multiple steps. Phases will be spaced apart by at least two weeks, and data for any cases and hospitalizations will be reviewed by the Business/Medical Case Review Unit before a decision is made to hold at the current phase, modify or move back a step if the situation warrants, or move forward to the next phase.

Baker County, along with ten other eastern Oregon counties, signed a letter on April 13 asking Governor Brown to allow rural counties to reopen as soon as May 1st. The letter states, “For all rural areas, time is of the essence. When restrictions are lifted we do not have the population to recover in a few weeks or days as in the metropolitan or large city areas, it will take the better part of a year. Even businesses that are deemed essential under the guidelines are struggling. They need the whole community working. We are confident your office can consider reopening on a regional basis, where public health risks are reduced based on our population density and community size, but where the economic fall-out is on the edge of becoming cataclysmic.”

Plan de reapertura del condado de Baker


St. Alphonsus Medical Center and Baker County Emergency Management are enacting local preparedness plans to be ready to respond to COVID-19. While Baker County continues to report no positive cases of coronavirus, it is important to have our local resources in place in the event that they are needed.

At the request of St. Alphonsus Medical Center, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team has agreed to transport and set up a support tent at the medical facility as a precautionary measure. In the event of multiple COVID-19 cases, this tent can provide necessary additional space to evaluate patients. The tent is a military surplus tent that includes lighting as well as a generator to allow for heat.

We are grateful for the Search and Rescue volunteers and Baker County Sheriff’s Office personnel who are willing to dedicate their time to assist with this.

Baker County Offices Close in Response to Spread of Coronavirus (COVID19); Certain Offices Available by Phone

As part of the Baker County Commissioners’ continuing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect the community and employees, all county office locations have been temporarily closed to the public. Many departments will continue to provide services by phone and email, and essential services will continue as needed by appointment. A complete list is provided below.

Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash stated, “If anyone has a non-emergent immediate need, we will work with them, please just call us at 541-523-6415 or email For emergencies, dial 911.” All jail visitation has been cancelled.

Earlier this week, the Baker County Circuit Court Judge Matt Shirtcliff moved the court to limited operations in accordance with Oregon Chief Justice Walters’ emergency order. Judge Shirtcliff stated, “Baker County Circuit Court will continue with court operations consistent with my previous Circuit Court order and the Chief Justice’s emergency order. The court has limited some hearings and trials but will continue to be open for business for many matters and all essential hearings and trials. Due to limited courthouse access, the public will need to call for assistance prior to coming to the Circuit Court. Staff will provide phone assistance with the electronic filing of documents and scheduling hearings. Attorneys and court participants will be able to access the courtroom for essential hearings and trials by appointment with the court staff. Please call 541-523-6303 to schedule. I will continue to ensure that the community has access to their court while maintaining safe court operations. I want to thank the local bar association and the community for their continued cooperation through these changes.”

The Board of Commissioners thanks everyone for their efforts to keep our families, friends and neighbors as safe as possible, and for being understanding during this trying time. Commissioner Mark Bennett says, “We understand this temporary office closure can create additional challenges for our community, and the Baker County staff is committed to providing the best information and services we can in these changing conditions. Please don’t hesitate to contact any of the open departments or the Commissioners if you have an urgent need we can help meet. We are so fortunate to serve a community that comes together to take care of one another.”

County office availability by department