It won’t be overnight. The relaxing of social distancing measures that were put in place on March 16th will be phased out in a new plan that was outlined yesterday by Governor Kate Brown.
In a press conference, Gov. Brown outlined the plan and said that it will be gradual and methodical. The reopening plan hinges on the ability to test a larger number of people for COVID-19 and to ramp up tracing of anyone that has come into contact with someone that has tested positive.
“We can’t stand still,” the Governor said in her address. “And so I think it’s really important that we take gradual and incremental steps forward to protect the health and safety of Oregonians.”
Testing for COVID-19 is considered to be crucial as people can have the disease but never feel ill. These people are considered to be asymptomatic but still contagious.
In the past two weeks, several elected leaders in rural counties have pushed for easing social distancing.
As Wheeler, Gilliam and Sherman County officials prepare their reopening strategies, the state is weighing their ability to test a larger number of people.
To date, only 11 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Wheeler County, none came back positive. In Gilliam County, 21 people have been tested to date, also with no positive cases. In Sherman County one person has tested positive but only 26 people have been tested for the disease.
Residents of Wheeler, Sherman and Gilliam counties have done an exceptional job of recognizing the danger and keeping social distance. However, a bigger question that rural counties must confront is what to do about out of area tourists. Many tourists are continuing to show up for fuel, food and to use restrooms in Moro, Fossil, Condon and Spray.
The easing of social distancing measures for residents in the area, with increased testing capabilities, is due. But how barriers and buffers are created for out of town visitors is another issue that will need to be confronted by residents and businesses.