Commissioners approve plan for phased reopening

Lake County Commissioners Mark Albertson, l-r, James Williams and Brad Winters are happy about the Phase 1 reopening plan they have developed and sent to the Governor’s office for approval.

Across three days of debate and meetings the Lake County Board of Commissioners finalized a phased reopening plan that was presented to the Governor’s office on Thursday, April 30, though there is no official time table for approval. Gov. Kate Brown hopes to make a decision no later than Thursday, May 14.

Gov. Brown stipulated for counties with zero COVID-19 cases to reopen: contact tracing, with businesses that do reopen keep contact information from those that visit. Also she is looking at having 600 people across the state, based in individual counties, to follow up if there is a positive case at a specific location.

Before Gov. Kate Brown released her own guidelines the Commissioners were using the general guidelines handed down from the Federal government to all states to follow in their reopening. With that in hand the Commissioners voted to create a committee on Tuesday, April 28, comprising of Commissioner James Williams, Lake County Public Health Dir. Judy Clarke, Public Medical Officer, Emergency Mgr. Daniel Tague, and medical staff from Lake District Hospital.

Originally they were going to follow the basic outline by Baker County, which released its reopening plan before Lake County got started.

In the original draft plan there was talk of keeping restaurants closed during Phase I, though Williams expressed reservations about that.

“It is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of keeping restaurants closed, but allowing gyms to be open in Phase I,” said Williams.

Commissioner Brad Winters expressed concerned about the rules about mass gatherings, and what the definition of one would be. He felt that a group setting of 10 or more should not be allowed in Phase 1.

“We need to do something to get restaurants open, even if it is on a phased level. Possibly go to reservation only? Encouraged those places that can do outdoor seating to do that,” said Winters.

Another concern Winters brought up is that with many people traveling through Lake County and Lakeview, they could possibly overwhelm the local system if they start showing up all at once. He felt that the burden will be upon the businesses on reopening to maintaining social distancing.

“This needs to be a living document, and it will be a living document, to where we can make changes at any time,” Williams said.

He repeatedly said that the plan document would change and that based on guidance released from the Governor’s office and what is happening in Lake County in terms of positive cases will affect the plan.

Clarke was concerned that the County might be considering moving too fast in between Phase 1 to Phase 2 and if there is a sharp spike in positive cases that could stall the reopening or even make it go backwards.

By the next day Brown had released state specific guidelines, which included restaurants opening in a limited capacity, something that was not supported by the medical professionals earlier.

Commissioner Mark Albertson wondered if it would be possible to submit a plan based on the Governor’s guidelines even though those guidelines did not have the local medical staff approval. He felt that it might be possible to submit Lake County’s plan following the Governor without the approval of the doctor’s necessarily.

At question is what happens if COVID-19 hits Lake County?. Based on numbers from the medical community all felt that as long as positive cases per a week is below seven and those that need ventilators is two or less per a week then the County could move towards reopening. If those numbers are reached then the reopening process would be halted until those numbers go down. The committee would then reform and determine the next steps.

The plan follows the Governor’s guidelines step-by-step, using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the burn rate, with the Lake District Hospital showing that currently they have more than 30-days of PPE available in their stocks.

After looking over Brown’s guidelines, the Commissioners approved the plan for reopening covering Phase 1 in detail, while Phase 2 and 3 are not as detailed and will be filled in once guidance is received.

Part of that is guidelines for individuals such as avoiding large groups, staying home if sick, and minimizing travel. Along with guidelines for employers that include developing plans for reopening following social distancing and safe practices, monitoring workforce for symptoms and sending people home if they are sick.

Churches would reopen, with social distancing and sanitation protocols in place. Sit-down dining would be allowed inside restaurants with a 50% capacity, contact tracing information would need to be collected. Also self-service would be prohibited in this phase such as soda machines and refilling stations. Bars could not allow counter or bar seating, and consumption of food and drinks end at 10 p.m.

Gyms would be allowed to reopen with sanitation and physical distancing measures with a recommendation of visitors wearing masks.

Barber shops and salons can reopen seeing one client at a time, with a recommendation that both people wear masks when possible.

The plan now goes to Brown, who will review the plans from the counties that have submitted one, and either approve it or send it back with suggestions. The Lake County Commissioners are confident that the Governor will approve Lake County’s plan since it follows the guidance from the state.

For questions or concerns contact the County at 541-947-6051.

Watch coverage of the Lake County Commissioners on the Lake County Examiner’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

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