Oregon's biggest cities ordered to shut down indoor dining again, angering restaurants and small businesses

Oregon COVID restrictions, Portland riots devastating dining industry: Business owner

ChefStable owner and founder Kurt Huffman discuss how new Oregon coronavirus restrictions and Portland protests are affecting his businesses. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that she is moving 15 of Oregon's biggest counties into the "extreme risk" category due to rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, forcing another shutdown of indoor dining for restaurants that have been battered by pandemic restrictions over the last 13 months. 

The new shutdown will affect some of Oregon's biggest cities – including Portland, Salem, Bend and Eugene – but Gov. Brown said it is necessary to get the state's fourth wave of coronavirus under control. 

"If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19," she said in a statement Tuesday. "Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher."

Residents wearing masks walk in downtown Lake Oswego, Ore., on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

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Many of Oregon's restaurants, which are already struggling to stay above water, will have to shut down indoor dining once again. 

Jason Brandt, the president of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that 1,200 restaurants have gone out of business due to the pandemic.

"It is impossible to run a restaurant two weeks at a time let alone one week at a time, which is now Governor Brown’s plan for the coming weeks," Brandt said Tuesday. "The move by the Governor’s Office is tonedeaf and offensive to tens of thousands of Oregonians working in restaurants and bars across our state attempting to pay their bills."

"The uncertainty and arbitrary nature of targeting restaurants has made it impossible for these local businesses to plan during a time when they’re already struggling to survive," he added.

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Outdoor capacity limits for bars and restaurants will rise from 50 to 100, but Brandt noted that this won't increase flexibility for many smaller restaurants. 

Brown also said that she is working with lawmakers on passing a $20 million emergency relief package for small businesses through the state's commercial rent relief program. 

Counties move into the extreme risk category when the daily number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is at least 300 and there is a 15% increase over the previous week. 

Counties remain in the extreme risk category for a maximum of three weeks, but risk levels will be reassessed next Tuesday. 

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So far, 40.2% of Oregonians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 27.2% are fully vaccinated. 

Brown said Tuesday that the only way to lift all the restrictions and return to normal is for everyone to get the vaccine. 

"My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy. But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated," she said. 

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