Benton County on Watch List: Local Businesses Keep on Keeping On

With Benton County being on the state’s COVID Watch List, business owners say they will continue to do what they have been doing.  

On Sept. 30, Benton County was placed on the state of Oregon’s COVID Watch List. Counties are placed on the Watch List when the coronavirus is spreading quickly and the rate of cases that cannot be traced – called sporadic cases – is more than 50 per 100,000 and there are more than five sporadic cases within two weeks. Counties remain on the watchlist for a minimum of three weeks and until their numbers of sporadic cases drop below the set threshold. Some counties have had to implement stricter guidelines again in order to decrease transmission.  

Jane Humphreys, the owner of Yogurt Extreme, says it’s good that the state is being careful. At the beginning of the pandemic, Humphreys changed all the locations to restrict seating and has since not changed back to dine-in. Employees are protected by a bubble of plastic and change gloves with every customer. Humphreys said she was grateful for the flexibility of her customers and that she was able to keep all staff employed.  

“Safety of customers and employees is my top priority,” Humphreys said.  

Humphreys is not the only person concerned about safety.  

Bessie Ramsey, the owner of Monroe Avenue Salon and Spa, says it would make sense to limit businesses if the county ended up needing to.  

“Personally, I love being at home with my kids,” Ramsey said. “But for some of the girls in my business the idea of that is very stressful.” 

Although Ramsey’s salon is right across from the newly opened campus, it has not seen an influx in customers. 

When asked about how he felt about Benton County being on a COVID Watch List, Jacob Denning at Downings Gym chuckled. Denning said the gym was an important part of many people’s routine, and that the gym was “dedicated” to safety of those who frequent it, vigorously cleaning gym equipment regularly, and requiring masks for customers and staff.  

The move to the Watch List is not a punitive measure, according to the Benton County Board of Commissioners Office 

Charlie Fautin, the county’s interim Health Department Co-Director, said that there is no specific group to blame for the placement on the list. 

He said, “It may be tempting to ‘point the finger’ at certain groups, whether it’s County contact tracing staff or college students but it’s not that simple. This is a metric our community has struggled with since reopening. It will take all of us to improve our community spread.” 

If you have a small business in Benton County and would like to add your comments, email them to Editor@CorvallisAdvocate.com. 

By: Hannah Ramsey