Updated: Aug 26
Rebecca Austen Lincoln County Health Director reported Monday, the number of tests that they do a week has been dropping and she thinks this could be "the new normal". The counties positivity rate is also dropping. Looking at age groups she showed a graph that those that are infected are now mostly age 20-49. This is a group that tends to be more social. The highest cases seem to be coming from Newport and Lincoln City with Agriculture, hospitality, restaurants and others. The county is at 58% for community spread and that needs to be down to 30%. Hospitalizations are also down. Rebecca said they are currently looking for a few more contact tracers as they are needing to go to a 7-day a week schedule.
Commissioner Hunt inquired about the trends going down, but asked if it was where it would need to be and Austin replied that it should be at 5% and right now we are between 7-9%. There are a lot more people out and moving around now than in the beginning of the pandemic she said. There have been 3 outbreaks in Lincoln City in the last few weeks at Hillside, Surftides and now at Inn at Spanish Head. Hunt also asked if those cases that are unknown where they are coming from could be coming from tourists to the county. Austin replied that would make sense however it can't been proven. Two of the indicators to move to phase 2 at this time have not been met.
When discussing the phase 2 application County Council Wayne Belmont said they are looking at the numbers for the week prior to determine if the County will move forward to phase 2 as scheduled. Austin said "It is important to meet all the metrics before we move forward. There is ample evidence to show that when we use caution and move slowly we keep our case counts down. On May 15th, when we started opening up is when we started seeing our case counts go up." She recommended that all criteria needs to be met before moving forward.
Chair Jacobson said they need to work further with the Governor's office to outline the process more to move forward. The call of weather or not Lincoln County can go to phase 2, would be made by the state on September 3rd. Belmont said all criteria does not have to be met to move to phase 2, there are other counties that have not met all 6 of the indicators. He said it is up to the State. Belmont added the County needs clarification from OHA about what specifically the County needs to have met to go to phase 2 on September 8th. Commissioner Hunt said he is uncomfortable going to phase 2 on September 8th.
According to the Governor, it would take 270 days to get to a 5% positivity rate to be able to open schools across the state. The Governor put it back on the local governments and law enforcement to get the numbers down and keep enforcement of the rules. Lincoln County Sheriff Landers said the Governor has not given any information on what she expects from law enforcement to enforce the restrictions. Public education is again important like handing out masks instead of citations. It is a crime to not adhere to the Governor's orders. He said having it be a citation would be easier to deal with, then treating it as a criminal offense.
The Commissioners also discussed the 24-hold on hotel and Short term rentals, Lincoln County is the only one that has this at this time. Newport has a 3-hour hold and Yachats has a 1-hour hold. Lincoln City and Waldport have no hold. Commissioner Hall made a motion to extend the 24-hour cleaning hold until September 9th, the day after the perspective date of moving to phase 2. Commissioner Hunt seconded the motion with an amendment that it would be more effective to extend it longer to September 29th.
Sheriff Landers stated that this is difficult to enforce as they don't have a way to witness when someone leaves from a property. The motion did pass with Commissioner Jacobson opposing because of the difficulty in enforcement and she said she would like to see it in more of the cities in the county as well. Sheriff Landers said they will continue to do what they can. Rebecca Austin said she will have discussions with Mayor Anderson regarding them possibly doing another hold in Lincoln City.