The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Sisters climbed to 78 as of November 25, up from 61 the previous week and from 51 the week before that. For many weeks, the count had held at 35.

The recent spike in confirmed cases matches a significant spike in Deschutes County and across Oregon.

As of last Monday morning (November 30), St. Charles Health System reported 29 COVID-19 patients. Two of the COVID-19 patients were in the ICU, none of the patients on a ventilator.

Hospital capacity, particularly for ICU beds, is a primary concern for healthcare providers. The sharp spike in cases and hospitalizations threatens to strain or overwhelm capacity state- and region-wide.

The two-week “freeze” imposed by Governor Kate Brown effective November 18 ends on December 2. The state will then shift to county-by-county restrictions based on assessed-risk level.

Last week, the Governor announced four different risk levels for counties based on their level of COVID-19 spread, to take effect after the freeze ends on December 2. At each risk level — Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk — health and safety measures and guidance for businesses and individuals will apply.

According to the Governor’s office, “The framework is intended to establish sustainable protection measures for Oregonians in counties with rapid spread of COVID-19, while balancing the economic needs of families and businesses in the absence of a federal aid package.”

Deschutes County currently sits in the “Extreme Risk” category.

After a two-week period, the Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly, but county risk levels will not change until the end of a second week. In the first week, counties will be given “Warning Week” data to prepare for potential risk level changes. In the second week, county risk levels will be updated based on that week’s data.

In counties with extreme risk, the following protocols are in place:

• Social and at-home gatherings with people from outside your household will be limited to a maximum of six people, with a recommended limit of two households.

• Restaurants, bars, and other eating and drinking establishments will be limited to a maximum of 50 people for outdoor dining only, with only six people per table. Takeout is strongly encouraged.

• Indoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment establishments, including gyms, will remain closed, however, outdoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment activities, including outdoor gym activities, will be allowed, with a maximum limit of 50 people outdoors.

• Retail stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and indoor and outdoor shopping centers and malls will be limited to a maximum of 50 percent of capacity, with curbside pick-up encouraged.

• Faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, and cemeteries will be limited to a maximum of 25 percent of capacity or 100 people indoors (whichever is smaller), or 150 people outdoors.

• Office workplaces will be required to utilize remote work to the maximum extent possible, with public-facing offices closed to the public.

• Personal services businesses will be allowed to continue to operate with health and safety measures in place.

• Long-term care facilities can allow limited outdoor visitation, following established health and safety protocols.

Oregon counties that are successful in reducing their COVID-19 risk levels in the coming weeks and months will be able to incrementally move to lower risk levels.

“It’s important to note that there is no Zero Risk category,” the Governor’s office stated. “Until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, health and safety precautions will remain in place so that schools, businesses, and communities can reopen, and stay open. At every risk level, to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, Oregonians must continue to wear face coverings, watch their physical distance, wash hands, stay home when sick, and keep social get-togethers and gatherings small.”