Multnomah County remains in freeze and will be evaluating new COVID-19 measures

November 25, 2020

Multnomah County statement on new state COVID-19 measures

Today, Gov. Kate Brown announced new health and safety measures for Oregon counties. While these new metrics signal the next phase of how the state will evaluate, report and respond to COVID-19 cases, Multnomah County will remain in its current “freeze” until at least Dec. 3, 2020. The situation is so serious that Multnomah County will be evaluating weekly what restrictions will best protect our community during this current increase.

By any measure, Multnomah County is in the highest state of alert right now. Cases in the County have increased for the seventh straight week, averaging more than 270 cases per day. Hospitalizations increased to their highest level ever, setting records for the second straight week. Area hospitals have cut back on scheduled procedures and healthcare staffing is tight due to this rising workload and staff themselves needing to stay home because of illness or exposure to the virus. 

“Our hospital systems are on the brink and a surge will overwhelm them,’’ Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said Tuesday during a briefing with the media. "We know that whenever there's a holiday where there's lots of food and gathering, we tend to see an increase two to three weeks later. And the way things are now, an increase two to three weeks from today would land us in an extremely difficult position across the metro area as far as hospital beds, potentially emergency response times, and generally our ability to respond and manage this virus and save lives."

As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, Multnomah County is focused on its 821,000 residents and the 1.8 million people in the Portland Metro area. The County has most of the state’s hospital beds, and the only two Level 1 trauma centers in the state. People come from across the state to seek specialized care.

And unlike earlier in the pandemic, there is no expectation of help coming from outside Oregon due to rising case counts in neighboring states and across the nation.

Dr. Ritu Sahni, EMS Director for Washington and Clackamas Counties, said this week that the pressure on hospitals locally means that "in the worst case scenario, it means that if you have severe, life-threatening conditions like trauma, heart attack or stroke, that the emergency care you require could be delayed, or in the very worst case scenario, unavailable." 

"We're pretty worried about what's going to happen after this holiday,’’ Sahni said. “The people who are responsible for our health and safety are really scared. And we’re all in this together, we really need your help.”

What we’re asking

Heading into Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Multnomah County is urging everyone— on behalf of first responders and healthcare workers — to respect the freeze guidelines by staying home as much as possible at least until Dec. 3. 

Essential outings are allowed for individuals to get food, medicines, care for others, or be outside at least 6 feet away from others. Employees are required to work from home to the greatest extent possible and offices are closed to the public.

Other restrictions include:

  • Pause on visits to long term care facilities.

  • No more than 6 people from two households at any social or in-home gathering.

  • Maximum of 25 people at faith gatherings and funerals indoors, and 50 person capacity outdoors.

  • No in-restaurant, bar or cafe service during the freeze. Takeout only.

  • Gyms, pools, museums, zoos and other facilities are closed.

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail at 75 percent capacity.

We are also asking people to stay on top of their health. If you are worried about a potential exposure, check symptoms at If you, or someone close to you, tests positive, you can use this After You Get Tested guide to find out what to do next and suggestions on how  to share positive test results.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday 

Chair Deborah Kafoury today kicked off the “Show a LIttle Love” campaign that emphasizes ways we can best support the community throughout the holidays, primarily by staying home, while also shopping locally and supporting neighbors in need. You can find more here.

“The ways we celebrate the winter and holiday seasons will have to look different in order for us to keep each other safe. This is always a time to show love to each other, and we can do that best this year by doing the responsible thing, even when it’s the hard thing,’’ said Chair Kafuory.

“Adapting our traditions this year makes it much likelier that when it comes time to gather next year, we can look back in gratitude, not grief.’