The next pandemic decision point could be whether to reopen Portland's entertainment venues or its school classrooms.
For the first time this week, Oregon began to meet the statewide criteria to reopen schools, with less than 5% of tests coming back positive for the coronavirus. (Three consecutive weeks of such results is required for schools to resume in-classroom instruction.)
Multnomah County is not yet achieving low enough case counts to reopen local school districts, but case counts have been declining.
To get case counts low enough to reopen kindergarten through 12th grade will require a significant decrease in cases.
But a continuing drop in cases could mean that Multnomah County reaches the threshold to reopen movie theaters and other entertainment venues before it can reopen schools under Gov. Kate Brown's Phase 2 guidelines. Ultimately, the county may need to choose between the two goals—that is, keep venues closed to lower case counts so school can resume.
Right now, county officials say they're focused on schools.
"We're evaluating our current standing regarding all the metrics the state has outlined for moving to Phase 2 and opening schools," says Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. "I think we are all committed to driving down our COVID numbers so kids can go back to school as soon as possible."
Phase 2 reopening
Guidelines the county is not meeting: 95% of COVID patients contacted within 24 hours during last week, 70% of cases traced to another case, and a downtrend in the percentage of tests coming back positive.
Current status: 89% of COVID patients contacted within 24 hours, 55% of cases traced to another case, and a slight uptrend in positive test rates.
What could happen if the county qualifies: Movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades and swimming pools could reopen.
Benchmarks the county still must meet: Less than 10 new COVID cases per 100,000 people for three consecutive weeks
Current status: 40 new cases per 100,000 people for the past two weeks.
What could happen if the county qualifies: All grade levels of schools could reopen. (At 30 cases per 100,000 people, kindergarten though 3rd grade classrooms could reopen.)