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Restrictions ease as Clackamas County enters Phase 1 posted on 06/01/2020

Clackamas County joined 33 other Oregon Counties in reopening on Saturday, May 23, easing restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic and entering Phase 1 of the three-phase process. Phase 1 includes limited reopening of restaurants, salons, gyms and malls, along with gatherings of up to 25 people for recreational, social, cultural, civic or faith events with physical distancing requirements.

“Thank you, Clackamas County,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Jim Bernard in a press release. “Without your incredible efforts in ‘flattening the curve,’ we would not have been able to move into Phase 1.”

The county approved its application for reopening on Tuesday, May 19 by a unanimous vote of the county commissioners. The county must remain in Phase 1 for 21 days, while state guidelines for Phase 2 were unknown at the time of press. A future spike in COVID-19 cases could result in a return to the previous restrictions and closures.

Mountain restaurateurs took the news with a mix of excitement and concern, including Susie Exley of the Barlow Trail Roadhouse in Welches. Exley noted that they tried to stay open and offer takeout options when the pandemic closure began but had to stop because it wasn’t making financial sense.

Exley added that their hours of operation are yet to be determined, but she expects to be open from Wednesday to Sunday with limited options that include the restaurant’s most popular options, such as fish and chips.

“We just don’t even know how busy or not busy we will be,” Exley said, adding that her staff is excited to get going again.

She added that her biggest fears include having to go back to the previous restrictions or having an asymptomatic customer that leads to people at the restaurant needing to be in quarantine.

“That is what causes me to pause a little bit and not go too gung-ho,” Exley said. “You just don’t know.”

Tom Anderson at The Rendezvous Grill never fully shut down his restaurant, despite the challenges of doing takeout.

“Customers have been really good to us,” he said, noting one benefit of exclusively doing take out is the lack of dishes. “People want us to be there on the other side and have been very supportive.”

By continuing to operate with takeout, Anderson noted that he feels the restaurant is in better shape than if he had closed entirely. To meet distancing requirements, he will have to remove tables to adhere to guidelines, but he added that the ability to seat customers outside will be a huge help.

“The outdoors will save us; the timing of it is good,” Anderson said, adding that costs have gone up due to the pandemic.

Anderson also noted that prior to the pandemic he had already begun restructuring things, including combining the restaurant’s lunch and dinner menus. Now that the restaurant is open for customers to eat there, he expects to only offer lunch on weekends and be open for less hours to start with.

At the same time, he noted that insurance companies will not cover issues related to COVID-19 at the restaurant, so he will take things slowly.

“We are in no hurry,” Anderson said, adding that it has been hard to sleep at night. “We would love to let somebody else be the guinea pigs.”

Meanwhile, the Mount Hood National Forest was expected to reopen most day-use and trailhead sites on Friday, May 29. Several sites, including most campgrounds, will not open immediately, and a list of opened and closed sites can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mthood/conditions.

"We are looking forward to reopening many previously closed areas on the forest, while prioritizing the health and safety of the public and employees,” said Richard Periman, Mt. Hood National Forest Supervisor, in a press release. “We’re asking the public to be prepared, be respectful of others, and recreate responsibly.”

Some facilities, such as vault bathrooms, may not be maintained daily. It is recommended that all visitors be prepared to provide for their own sanitation and be as self-contained as possible while recreating.

Timberline Lodge and Ski Area also reopened last month, featuring a Covid Response Management Team, Covid employee training and strategies to keep guests and employees safe and healthy. Guests should be prepared for limited chairlifts and new processes for parking, lift tickets and lift lines, while the hotel will only be open to overnight guests and have a limited number of rooms available.

For up to date details about visiting and recreating Timberline Lodge, please visit www.timberlinelodge.com.

Despite the lifting of restrictions, a number of annual events have been cancelled for this summer, including the Mt. Hood Artisans Market, Clackamas County Bank’s Party on the Patio, Compassion Sandy, Hood to Coast and the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum’s Steiner Cabin Tour and Steiner Society Social.

“The concern for the health of cabin owners, event staff and tour participants, as well as the uncertainty of the situation, have driven our decision to cancel,” said Lloyd Musser, museum curator, in a press release.

The Steiner Cabin Tour and the Rhododendron Centennial +1 Celebration have been rescheduled for Aug. 7, 2021.

To find out what businesses in Clackamas County are currently open, visit https://www.clackamas.us/coronavirus/business or https://ccgismapservice.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=3bcd62a700b945d1b907a28dff29f354

Businesses owners who have questions about their requirements should visit https://govstatus.egov.com/reopening-oregon#phase1

To view the county’s plan and progress with Oregon state prerequisites, visit www.clackamas.us/coronavirus/reopening.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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