Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced this week that Oregon is developing a multifaceted, step-by-step plan for reopening businesses and relaxing its “stay at home” measures.  In accordance with federal guidance, Oregon’s plan has three phases, with gating criteria and core preparedness requirements that must be met before moving to the next phase. Between each phase, state officials must wait 14 days and pass the gating criteria again before moving onto the subsequent phase.  The plan is expected to be finalized the week of May 4.

Threshold Criteria for Reopening

The gating criteria address the threshold health and safety measurements, and include the downward trajectory of flu- or COVID-like illnesses within a 14-day period, as well as of documented COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a % of total tests.  In addition, hospitals must be able to treat all patients and have a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.

Oregon counties must also meet core preparedness criteria regarding:

  • robust testing and contact tracing;
  • healthcare system capacity, including PPE (personal protective equipment) and surge capacity; and
  • plans for health and safety, including protecting the health and safety of workers in critical industries or high-risk facilities (e.g., senior living communities), protecting employees and users of mass transit, advising citizens regarding social distancing protocols, and monitoring conditions and immediately taking steps to mitigate rebounds or outbreaks.

Requirements for Employers During Phased Reopenings

During all three phases, employers must consider appropriate policies regarding:

  • social distancing,
  • protective equipment,
  • temperature checks, and
  • sanitation

Employers should also monitor their workforce for indicative symptoms and conduct contact tracing for employees who test positive.

Phased Reopening of Oregon Businesses

Once the gating and core preparedness criteria are met, restrictions may be lifted in three phases at Governor Brown’s direction.

Phase 1

  • Employers must continue teleworking efforts whenever possible.
  • Some industries may be able to reopen, depending on guidance from a working group developing proposed restrictions. As examples, restaurants may be able to offer sit-down dining, and bars and personal services (e.g., salons) may be permitted to reopen. The working group will propose a plan that is expected to contain strict social distancing and sanitation requirements. Gyms and large venues (e.g., sporting events, theaters, etc.) will likely remain closed.
  • Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place.
  • All individuals should maximize social distance when in public.
  • Individuals should avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people.
  • Non-essential travel should be minimized.

Phase 2

  • More businesses are expected to reopen with distancing and sanitation requirements.
  • Schools and gyms can open with physical distancing.
  • Gatherings can increase to 50 people.
  • Non-essential travel can resume.

Phase 3

  • Worksites have unrestricted staffing.
  • Restaurants and bars can have more seating.
  • Mass gathering size may be increased.
  • Visitors to nursing homes are allowed.

While Oregon’s plan is still in the works and additional guidance on reopening is forthcoming, employers should start developing and finalizing their own return to work plan as well as the policies and safeguards described above to prepare to reopen as soon as the Governor permits it.  When that happens, it will not be business “as usual”; it may be quite some time before workplaces resemble the environment many people left several weeks when the coronavirus pandemic began.  But the return to any business will be a welcome change for many.  For questions about implementing your own return to work policies, please contact us.