While densely populated metro area counties including Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas move up the COVID-19 risk levels set out by Governor Kate Brown, Yamhill and other rural counties are being left behind because the infection rate per 100k is too high.

The #OpenOregon movement embraced and promoted by a number of local officials and businesses in and beyond Yamhill County has maintained that bars and restaurants should be able to open for dine in and gyms should also be able to open. They indicate that the state has provided no evidence for increased risk of transmission despite such evidence being widely available [Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the Univeristy of Minnesota | DC Sample traces 14% of outbreaks to restaurants | Forbes explores Korean study on restaurant spread and the study ].

Ignoring the science that shows the longer and closer one is in contact with someone the greater the chance of transmission. The group, and it’s proponents feel if it is safe to shop for an hour at Costco that there’s no difference between that and dining out. Of course shoppers have to wear masks, while diners are unable to wear one while eating making for a greater risk. The exhalations during exercise also likely create greater risk, but there is not enough research there.

Some county businesses have taken it upon themselves to ignore the mandates and have opened. Old Town Bar & Grill in Newberg has been open for dine in until yesterday when the were shuttered by OLCC. The owner, Kristy Boley is now running a GoFundMe seeking support from customers in the amount of $50,000. The GFM states that Kristy is the sole owner and a single mother.

In December the Old Town hosted a meeting with Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam talking about the need to open main street businesses and save them from going out of business. Yamhill County Commissioner-Elect Lindsay Berschauer and Commissioner Starrett attended as well. All were maskless throughout.

Has encouraging businesses to ignore the mandates and promoting the anti-mask stance backfired and kept Yamhill County in the Extreme Risk level thereby hurting the very small businesses Starrett, Berschauer and the #OpenOregon movement claim to stand for?

Starrett and Berschauer have both made strong statements in support of local businesses, insisting they be allowed to fully open – “Small businesses are hurting”. Both are anti-mask with Starrett refusing to wear a mask when the Board of Commissioners were still meeting in person and Berschauer and her family attending church services without masks.

As covered yesterday, this same level of support for our county’s small businesses does not appear to extend to the visitor economy, which so many restaurants and main street businesses rely upon year round.

The mixed message on supporting small businesses in Yamhill County could mean this isn’t about small business at all. If it’s not is it about power and control? Or a performative political ploy to foment anger in the county?

Correction: Ms. Boley has been in touch to advise that despite the content of the bar’s website she is the sole proprietor. I’ve confirmed and updated the article.