Statement from Chair Harrington on Governor’s reopening criteria

Release date: 05/08/2020
Sponsored by: Board of Commissioners

Kathryn Harrington

Board Chair Kathryn Harrington visiting the Washington County Emergency Operations Center on March 18, prior to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding facial coverings. 


Washington County is working hard in collaboration with our neighboring counties to meet Governor Brown’s criteria for reopening sometime in early- to mid-June, but that will be based on meeting the Governor’s criteria, including ensuring that the region’s COVID-19 cases are decreasing by that point. Ultimately our reopening plan must also receive approval by the State of Oregon.

It is important to remember that the Portland metro region, including Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties, has a bigger population and more cases of COVID-19 than other counties in rural parts of Oregon.  Because the Governor’s criteria for reopening is harder to meet in our county, we will be opening later than other counties.

The Governor outlined several criteria or prerequisites for counties to reopen, so here is where we are in meeting them:

Contact tracing: 
Washington County is on track to having the staff needed to meet the Governor’s contact tracing guidelines by early- to mid-June.

Isolation and quarantine: 
Thanks to outstanding work among community-based organizations and the activation of a respite shelter in a former hotel, Washington County currently has the capacity to meet the isolation and quarantine prerequisite for new cases. 

Under the Governor’s criteria, our six-county region must be able to do 30 tests per 10,000 people. We understand that the region has the capacity to meet this standard now. 

Declining hospitalizations:
Washington County has had declining COVID-19 hospital admissions over the last 14 days, so we are meeting this prerequisite currently. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and health care capacity: 
Washington County currently has sufficient personal protective equipment for our first responders. We also have sufficient hospital capacity for a surge if cases increase once we reopen. 

Governor Brown is also allowing certain businesses to reopen as of May 15 if these businesses follow specific protocols, including:

  • Stand-alone furniture stores, boutiques, art galleries and jewelry stores, so long as they can follow distancing, face covering and safety protocols. 
  • Childcare, summer schools and youth camps, so long as they can meet specific criteria set out by the state. 

Other businesses in Washington County will have to wait until we get approval from the Governor for Phase I to begin. When these businesses reopen, they will need to meet state guidelines for safety which include customers and workers wearing face coverings if they cannot guarantee the six-feet distance requirements among people. This face-coverings requirement will be mandatory in pharmacies, grocery stores, salons, public transit and ride-share businesses. Using face coverings is strongly recommended in other businesses as well. 

Based on this guidance from the Governor’s Office, Washington County has been working on a reopening plan that will be reviewed by our County Board of Commissioners at our Work Session on Tuesday, May 12. The public is welcome to listen to the meeting through our live YouTube stream, but public testimony is not part of this particular meeting.

Finally, it is important to remember that we will not go back to “normal living” until there is a safe, effective vaccine that is available throughout our community. People should still keep six feet of physical distance, wash their hands frequently and wear face coverings while in public. These actions, together with restrictions on visits to long-term-care facilities, will still be especially important for protecting the historically underserved and high-risk populations who are more likely to have serious complications or even die as a result of COVID-19. 

I know this is a challenging time for everyone. I also know that this disease is having a disproportionate effect on those who are currently marginalized and historically underserved. We all need to do everything we can to reduce the spread of this virus by following the safety measures set out by Governor Brown. Doing so will save lives and help our county avoid having to go back to closure, repeating the economic impact on our community that we’ve just gone through. 

Thank you for all that you are doing to keep our community healthy and safe.

Kathryn Harrington
Chair, Washington County Board of Commissioners


Media Contact:

Philip Bransford, Communications Officer