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Umatilla County put on COVID-19 'watch list' as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announces increased enforcement

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Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a news conference in March. For the holiday weekend and beyond she has announced increased enforcement on COVID-19 restrictions and an eight-county watch list.

Umatilla County is one of eight counties in Oregon on a watch list that could face more restrictive measures if the COVID-19 outbreak worsens.

After a one-day record 375 coronavirus cases Thursday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Friday announced plans to monitor counties in the coming days, as well as increase enforcement across the state in general on face coverings, physical distancing and occupancy standards for businesses.

The effort, according to an announcement, is led by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in a movement for compliance with coronavirus-related restrictions over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and beyond.

“I am asking Oregonians this holiday weekend to take urgent steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing face coverings, avoiding large gatherings and physically distancing,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “And state enforcement agencies will be out in force to ensure businesses are in compliance. Those businesses not complying with gathering size limits, face covering requirements, physical distancing rules and other standards face still penalties.”

Brown said her watch list for COVID-19 includes Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Union and Wasco counties, in addition to Umatilla.

Umatilla County reported its sixth COVID-19-related death Friday as 365 cases remained active of the 614 total positives since the pandemic began. Another 50 cases were characterized as presumptive positive through the pandemic. A presumptive positive label is given to those who have not tested but exhibit symptoms and have had close contact with a confirmed case. If later that person is tested and is positive, they are recategorized.

Her announcement Friday said alarmingly high per capita rates of case increases and community spread have prompted the extra attention.

If the counties do not see a downturn quickly, restrictive measures, including business closures or tighter gathering size limits, could be imposed.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission staff, supported by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health field offices, will conduct spot checks and inspections all over the state through the holiday weekend.

Businesses that refuse to comply with alcohol laws, liquor rules, and face covering requirements in indoor public spaces, could receive citations, fines and “red warning” notices, which close businesses until the conditions are remedied. Red warnings can also result in stiff penalties, the announcement said.

“We stand at a crossroads this weekend — we an either stop the spread of COVID-19, or infections and hospitalizations will rise across Oregon and I will reinstate restrictive measures in impacted counties and business sectors,” Brown said in a prepared statement.

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