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Oregon lowers restaurant seating caps again

Fourteen of the state's 34 counties are now operating under a 25% limit on indoor seating,

In a heads-up that another wave of capacity rollbacks could be coming, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown alerted residents yesterday that she was re-imposing restrictions on the restaurants of six counties within her state.

Establishments in those areas will be required as of Friday to lower the cap on indoor dining to 25% of total seating capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower. Places in the six counties can currently use 50% of their interior seating, up to 100 people.

The outdoor cap drops to 75 people, from the current limit of 150.

With the rollback, 14 of Oregon’s 36 counties will be functioning as of this weekend under the 25% cap.

Jurisdictions elsewhere in the country are warning that they, too, may lower their capacity ceilings on restaurants. Health officials in Chicago, for instance, said the cap there could be lowered this week.

Ohio didn’t tighten its limits on dining out, but balked at lifting the restrictions when other types of businesses in the state were recently given a green light by Gov. Mike DeWine to ramp up their operations.

Similarly, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to lift his state’s 11 p.m. curfew on restaurant dining, but eased that restriction on many other types of business.

At the other end of the spectrum is California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom surprised many operators by announcing Tuesday that the state will likely lift all restrictions on restaurants except a mask requirement on June 15. On the same day, some areas of the state were just shifting from a cap of 25% of indoor seating to 50%.

Texas, South Carolina and Massachusetts have already scuttled virtually all of the restrictions that were at one time limiting restaurants’ operation.

“We are at a critical moment in this pandemic as we face more contagious variants of COVID-19 taking hold in our communities,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “Now more than ever it’s imperative that we all continue wearing masks, maintain physical distance, stay home when sick, and get the vaccine when it’s available to you.”

The six Oregon counties that were shifted from a Moderate Risk to a High Risk classification are Clackamas, Deschutes, Klamath, Linn, Multnomah and Tillamook.  

Six others are rated as Moderate Risk, 16 are classified as Lower Risk. No county remains in the Extreme Risk grouping.

The move in Oregon comes as a number of federal health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and celebrity germ fighter Anthony Fauci, are warning that the country is barreling toward another COVID-19 surge. They’ve cautioned that a sharp upswing could trigger the sort of widespread shutdowns the nation saw in March 2020 and around the end of last year.

Authorities also note that the number of new COVID-19 infections has plateaued at around 60,000 cases per day instead of diminishing, even with a significant portion of the population now vaccinated against the potentially lethal disease. They portray the situation as a struggle to inoculate more of the U.S. population before the coronavirus mutates into more contagious forms.


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