BY STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Jefferson County will jump two places from “High” to “Lower” risk, starting Friday.
The county has shown marked improvement, months after recording one of the worst rates of COVID in the state.
This week, Gov. Brown announced Jefferson County is moving to the lowest risk level less than a month after being listed in “Extreme.”
“It’s so wonderful to start seeing this come back to some sort of normality for our community and for things to be opened up again and for public health to see what we have been doing start paying off,” said Public Informations Officer for Jefferson County Public Health Tami Kepa’a.
Kepa’a attributes the speed of improvement to two things: vaccines and herd immunity.
“We do show about 18.5% of our population has been vaccinated,” Kepa’a said. “60% of the 65 and older have been vaccinated.”
She adds, “another 8.5% of the population had previous exposures, adding up to a total of 27% of the county immune to the spread of the coronavirus.”
The Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs has recorded 22 COVID-19 related deaths.
“A lot of the elders were affected by this,” she added. “I think we all took it seriously when you start seeing the impact of that. It was pretty heartbreaking.”
Warm Springs Director Government Affairs and Planning Louie Pitt Jr. agrees.
“It was really devastating because they are family and so close to home, not just a number, so it really hurt with some key people passing,” said Pitt Jr.
Pitt Jr. credits the reduction in cases to getting the message across.
“I think the acceptance of the local folks here to understand the seriousness of the situation,” said Pitt Jr.
Pitt Jr. says 40% of the tribal community has been vaccinated.
“This is definitely a morale booster for our community,” said Kepa’a. “Finally some light at the end of the tunnel.”