Commissioners Ask Gov to Reconsider Grouping Clackamas with Other Counties for Phase 2

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is asking Governor Kate Brown to reconsider her decision this week grouping Clackamas with its Portland metro area neighbors Washington and Multnomah for future reopening decisions.

Clackamas County had become eligible to apply for phase 2 reopening — which allows larger gatherings and looser restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses — on June 13, after 21 days at phase 1.

Commissioners had been mulling the application decision when the governor’s announcement came down. And though they had already decided to delay matters due to a spike in new cases, it’s unlikely they would have waited an additional three weeks or more.

Such a delay would be required now since Multnomah County just began the first phase of reopening.

“This new announcement regarding a minimum 21-day wait period to coincide with Multnomah County is disappointing news to those who have been working diligently to contain COVID-19, limit new cases and promote and follow safety measures,” commissioners wrote in their June 18 letter to Governor Brown. “While we understand this is a very difficult decision, we request you consider a number of issues that illustrate the unique position Clackamas County residents and business owners are coping with.”

Those unique issues include that Clackamas, despite having the third-highest population of any county in the state, did not receive any federal CARES funding to help manage its Covid-19 response, while Multnomah and Washington did.

Commissioners also pointed out that Marion and Hood River counties, which also border Clackamas and are widely traveled by residents of metro area counties, have been approved to enter the governor’s second phase of reopening.

They could have added that Clackamas has seen far fewer coronavirus cases and deaths than Marion County, despite having a larger population, and has been the least impacted in the tri-county area, with less than a third of Multnomah County’s cases and deaths.

Clackamas County still does not meet all six of the criteria for phase 2, including declining rates of new cases and aggressive contact tracing. But commissioners say an uptick was expected with any reopening, and that the county recently hired 30 new contact tracers.

“Staff are currently being trained and our capacity is increasing to meet the needs,” said the letter signed by County Chair Jim Bernard and Administrator Gary Schmidt. “We are also working proactively to improve data entry and quality control to improve those public health indicators that are within our control.”

The letter concludes by thanking Governor Brown for the recent announcement requiring face coverings for all indoor public spaces and asking her office to continue to stress the public’s responsibility in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“We believe that increased communication on safe public health practices to limit the spread of the virus will prevent future pauses,” commissioners said. “We remain committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our residents. We appreciate your hard work in ensuring Oregon comes out ahead of this public health pandemic and eagerly await your decision.”

Photo by David Lofink. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License (CC BY 2.0).

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