A face mask. File photo: Chas Hundley

OREGON - Washington County was approved for reopening under Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s phase one reopening plan in late May, and businesses in western Washington County began taking tentative steps into a different world on June 1. 

Slimmer hours, social distancing, and more are part of that new world for restaurants, gyms, salons and other businesses that had been shuttered in full or in part since mid-March.

Now, in a Wednesday 11:15 a.m., press briefing, Gov. Brown has outlined a plan for some counties to enter “phase two” of reopening, which would loosen restrictions further. 

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A full list of requirements can be found at govstatus.egov.com/reopening-oregon#phase2.

“It’s been 10 weeks since I announced Oregon’s 'stay home, save lives' order," said Gov. Brown. "Many of us expected, and hoped, that this would be a shorter detour from our everyday lives. That life would simply return to normal. But as the weeks have come and gone, we find ourselves adapting to a new normal.”

Gov. Brown noted that until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed, business as usual could not resume in the everyday lives of those in Oregon, the U.S., and the world.

Brown also noted the state’s efforts in developing culturally specific contact tracing plans to address the outsized impact of COVID-19 on Oregon’s communities of color during the conference, which also featured Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the Oregon State Health Officer and State Epidemiologist, and Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority.

During the press conference, Allen noted his agency’s missteps in handling the coronavirus in regards to the outsized impact on minority groups in Oregon. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how far short we are from eliminating health inequity in our state. The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have fallen especially hard on communities of color across the nation and in Oregon. A centuries-long history of racism and oppression have led to the very health conditions that exacerbate the impacts of COVID-19. At OHA, we’ve been too slow to recognize that threat and act on it. For that, I’m truly sorry.”

To enter phase two, a county must have been in phase one for at least 21 days and meet other prerequisites, such as continuing to reduce COVID-19 case counts. With Washington County only entering phase one on June 1, it would be summer before the county could potentially enter phase two.

31 of Oregon’s 36 counties could be ready to open as early as Friday under phase two guidelines, according to Brown.

Gov. Brown specifically noted the following that would be allowed, among other things, for counties approved to enter phase two:

-- Bars and restaurants and other businesses can be open until midnight

-- The requirement for business to mandate remote work would instead become a strong recommendation

-- Arcades, bowling alleys, and movie theaters could reopen

-- Recreational sports would be allowed to reopen

--Pools could reopen, subject to health guidelines  

-- Faith-based, civic, and social groups could meet in larger groups if kept appropriately socially distanced

College athletes could also begin voluntary training in June under phase two rules as well.