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.
"We’re pretty pissed," Brandon Woodruff, the owner of Manifest Beer Company in Eugene, told FOX Business Wednesday. "I know the restaurants, the managers and owners that we sell our beer to throughout the state — they’re telling us the same thing. … It’s not like any of us have this in our business plan, our marketing and such, ‘Hey, we know how to run a business and close it down every two months.’"
The new shutdown will affect some of Oregon's biggest cities – including Portland, Salem, Bend and Eugene – but 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."
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Jason Brandt, the president of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that 1,200 restaurants have already 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 tone-deaf 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.
Even for restaurants that can remain open, owners say it's been impossible to find help in recent months due to the $300 per week unemployment benefits that were recently extended by the federal government until September.
"We can't find help now. We've been losing our butt when it comes to gross sales, of course that's been hitting us, but now we can't even find help," Kylie Krebs, owner of Black Trumpet Bistro in Curry County, told FOX Business Wednesday. "Not only are we not able to open, now we don't even have a staff. … It's just hitting us in every direction."
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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.
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.