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Benton County, along with many other counties around Oregon, reopened numerous businesses Friday, May 15. Other COVID-19 measures remain in effect.

After Gov. Kate Brown’s plans to reopen Oregon’s businesses were announced May 7, she allowed each county to decide whether or not they would apply to open their restaurants, salons, gyms and in-person gatherings.

Lili’a Neville, a public information officer for Benton County, said the county will be following all state-issued guidelines as a part of the reopening process.

These guidelines include limiting in-person gatherings to 25 people or less, allowing no more than parties of 10 in a restaurant and enforcing all employees to wear cloth, disposable or paper masks that will be provided by the institution.

Bryan Lee, emergency manager for the Benton County Sheriff's Department, said that reopening during phase one is about balancing the health of the community by following individual requirements while also making sure that reopened businesses are embracing the precautions that come from the state government.

“Community centers, recreation centers, libraries, schools, childcare, large gyms and fitness centers, public pools are still awaiting additional guidance from the state, but it appears they will not be able to open in phase one,” Lee said. “The focus is less about specific business types and more about the ability to contact, trace, test and slowly implement services with social distancing and hygiene protocol in place while limiting groups over 25 people.”

As of May 15, there are 49 reported cases of coronavirus in Benton County, and there have been five fatalities, according to the county’s virus information page.

According to Lee, the county’s decision about reopening needed to take into account both the physical and economic health of the community.

“There are well-documented public health consequences to being in lower socioeconomic status such as increased morbidity and mortality rates to chronic disease,” Lee said. “As a result, we felt it was prudent to explore reopening in a safe and responsible manner with all the mitigation measures in place.”

According to Neville, to ensure that Benton County limits the spread of COVID-19 after reopening, individuals must continue to follow social distancing requirements.

“Students, as well as any individual, should be wearing face masks when they leave their home and they can not physically distance: when they’re running errands, grocery shopping trips, etc.,” Neville said.

Neville suggested that a person should cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw that tissue away. All individuals should continue to wash their hands with warm soapy water for at least twenty seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

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