But no, really, go ahead and re-open.

As the latest Oregonian article on the subject makes clear, Marion County has no business trying to re-open. But, you know, they’re going to go for it anyway.

Five Oregon counties are pushing full speed ahead to reopen at the end of this week despite sudden surges in their reported coronavirus cases….

Marion County, which has Oregon’s highest rate of coronavirus infections, reported nearly 270 new cases during that time — more than any other county, including the Portland metro area’s three counties.

Yet elected and public health officials in all five counties said they meet the infection criteria issued by Gov. Kate Brown to enter the state’s “Phase 1” for reviving public life and the economy, which begins Friday.

On their own, the state’s guidelines are weaker than the “Opening Up America” guidance circulated by the White House and promoted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert who on Tuesday warned U.S. senators against moving to open the country too quickly.

These Oregon counties want to reopen Friday. Their COVID-19 cases are surging, OregonLive.com, 12 May 2020.

Got that? Counties who don’t meet the state’s criteria for re-opening want to re-open while the state wants to re-open using criteria that doesn’t meet the federal guidance for re-opening. It’s a like a set of moronic Russian nesting dolls.

What benchmark do these five Oregon counties meet? “A threshold to halt re-opening.” The logic is positively Trumpian.

Marion County, where I live and work, has the second highest number of cases in the state, and the number continues to grow rapidly.

Over the past 14 days, Marion County had seen 267 new positive cases, a 37% spike in its overall case count, now at 723. Only Multnomah County has more cases total, at 908.

On Saturday, Marion County reported 43 new cases, its largest daily increase to date, as well as one of the highest rates of positive tests in a day – 21%. On Tuesday, it had 28 new cases, its second highest daily total.

As always, local public health officials seem baffled by the numbers:

Katrina Rothenberger, the county’s public health director, said she doesn’t want to read too much into a single day event and that the percentage of positive tests has jumped around quite a bit.

In fact, the county’s seven-day rolling average case count is at a new high and its seven-day rolling positive test rate of 12.3% is near its high from April 26.

By comparison, Oregon’s positive test rate is 4.2%.

“It’s hard to pinpoint why Marion County cases are so high,” Rothenberger said, while acknowledging that “there is something definitely happening in Marion County.”

It’s more than a little troubling that we’re about to re-open in a county where cases are accelerating and we don’t know why. But clearly that’s what county commissioners want to do, and Rothenberger is happy to sign off on it.

Despite the trend in cases and positive test rates, Rothenberger said she’s comfortable with the county’s plan to reopen May 15. Local health care providers have certified that they have capacity to handle a surge, and the county can meet the governor’s hospitalization criteria.

“We’ve been ramping up since March 8. COVID-19 is going to be in our community for a very long time and I don’t think we can afford to keep our economy closed until it’s eliminated,” she said.

“I’m comfortable with the plan that was submitted by our commissioners, understanding that it’s up to OHA and we need to meet those gating criteria.”

So Rothenberger’s response is

  1. Hospitals can handle a surge (yay!)
  2. COVID-19 is here for the long haul (boo!)
  3. We can’t “afford to keep our economy closed until it’s eliminated” (uh, who said that?)
  4. This is the Oregon Health Authority’s problem, not mine (CYA boilerplate)

This news, taken individually or collectively, is not inspiring. Oregon kept its numbers low by closing comparatively early. Re-opening now, at least in Marion County, probably means closing again before too long, and probably eliminates any chance of schools resuming in the fall.

The specifics of the state’s re-opening guidelines are these:

Sectors that would be allowed to reopen would be retail stores, child care facilities, personal services such as barbers, county parks, churches, health clubs and bowling alleys, though all would be limited to 50% maximum capacity and have to follow physical distancing and sanitation protocols.

And gatherings of up to 25 people would be allowed.

Among the state’s guidelines for restaurants and bars is they must space tables at least six feet apart, limit capacity of customers to 50% and limit parties to 10 people or fewer.

Marion and Polk counties want to reopen Friday. When they will find out remains to be seen, Statesman-Journal, 13 May 2020.

Of all these, only county parks seem like a low risk proposition. Any place with a shared respiratory space is grounds for spread, and personally I have no plans to visit a barber, church, gym, or bowling alley any time soon.