Clatsop County will move to lower risk for the coronavirus beginning Friday, allowing gathering sizes and indoor capacity at restaurants and bars to increase.

The county has gone back-and-forth between high risk and extreme risk since November, when Gov. Kate Brown introduced the data-driven framework designed to contain the spread of the virus through the winter. The lower risk category is the state’s least restrictive on businesses and social activities.

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Restaurants can have higher capacity starting Friday as the county’s risk level for the coronavirus improves.

“For the second time in a row, we are seeing great progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon and saving lives,” the governor said in a statement Tuesday.

“Oregonians continue to step up and make smart choices. While these county movements are welcome news, we must continue to take seriously health and safety measures, especially as more businesses reopen and we start to get out more. As we see infection rates going down and vaccinations ramping up, now is not the time to let down our guard. Continue to wear your masks, keep physical distance and avoid indoor gatherings.”

Clatsop County, which has been in the high risk category for the past two weeks, is one of 10 counties that will be at lower risk through March 11. Five counties will be at extreme risk, 11 will be at high risk and 10 will be at moderate risk.

Mark Kujala, the chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said the announcement is welcome news for local business owners.

“Many have been struggling with restrictions and limitations on indoor activities, so it’s good news,” he said. “But if we want to stay in the lowest risk category, we can’t be complacent.

“So we’ll need to continue to limit exposure risk through masking and social distancing. And of course, the effort to get our community vaccinated will continue to be the major focus in the months ahead as we navigate through this.”

Counties with a population of 30,000 or more are evaluated for risk based on virus cases per 100,000 over two weeks and the test positivity rate for the same period.

Counties at lower risk have a case rate under 50 per 100,000 people, and may have a test positivity of 5% or less.

As of Saturday, Clatsop County had 30.5 cases per 100,000 over a two-week period. Test positivity was 1.5%.

Capacity for indoor dining at restaurants and bars in counties at lower risk can increase to 50% with a midnight closing time. Up to 300 people can dine outdoors. Tables must be limited to eight people.

Gyms, indoor pools, museums, theaters and other entertainment venues can operate at 50% of capacity.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops and shopping malls can operate at 75% of capacity.

Churches can increase capacity to 75% indoors and 300 people outdoors.

Indoor social gatherings must be limited to 10 people from four households in counties at lower risk. Outdoor gatherings can have 12 people.

Indoor and outdoor visits are allowed at long-term care facilities.

The county has recorded 780 virus cases since March. According to the county, 18 were hospitalized and six have died.

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.