127K to go; Brown lays out reopening plans once 70% COVID vax target is met

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The countdown is on.

The state’s COVID vaccination rate is now at 66% and Gov. Kate Brown said Friday roughly 127,000 more people need to get the shot to reach the coveted 70% target.

Once met, she’ll fully reopen the economy and end statewide mask, physical distancing and capacity limit requirements in nearly all settings.

Additionally, the state will turn its attention from COVID emergency response to pandemic recovery.

“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines,” Brown said in a morning news conference. “For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point — and you are protected from this virus.”

So how long will it take to reach the goal? Modeling suggests it could possibly happen by June 21st but OHA Director Patrick Allen said that’s by no means a slam dunk.

Mask requirements for Oregon’s students under 12-years-old and staff will remain in place through this school year. And per current federal guidelines, masks will be required in airports and on public transit.

“If you are not vaccinated, this virus still poses a very real threat.”
– Gov. Kate Brown

But in nearly every other setting, Oregonians – vaccinated or not – won’t have to wear a mask and can sidle up to their friends at restaurants, the movies, bars, and everywhere else.

Brown said it’s become a tale of two pandemics and those who have been vaccinated can feel comfortable out and about without wearing a mask.

“If you are not vaccinated, this virus still poses a very real threat,” she said.

Numbers released Thursday by the Oregon Health Authority back that up.

The agency reported 98% of the 16,000+ COVID cases reported in May were in unvaccinated patients.

Additionally, the state’s seen only 1,000 “breakthrough cases” out of more than 1.85 million vaccinated Oregonians.

Dr. Louis D’Avignon, a pulmonary critical care physician at St. Charles who joined Brown in her news conference Friday said simply “the vaccinated population is staying out of the hospital.”

He said since March 1st, of the 346 patients hospitalized for COVID complications, all but 18 were not vaccinated – that’s 95%.

Meanwhile, COVID cases continue to fall across the state.

Last week, the 2,677 new cases were a 13% decline from the previous week and hospitalizations were at their lowest point in six weeks, according to the OHA.

Deschutes County cases have been falling for four straight weeks and the 220 cases reported last week were the fewest since early April.

Cases across Central Oregon reflect the same decline.

There’s been a steadily building sense of normalcy across the state in recent weeks as more and more businesses loosened mask requirements for vaccinated customers.

And with larger crowds gathering outside in the warmer spring weather, you’d almost never know we’re coming out of a global pandemic that’s killed more than 2,600 Oregonians.

But health officials were quick to warn Friday that while that state will soon end the restrictions that came along with COVID, the virus hasn’t been eradicated.

“We don’t end at 70%,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist. “It begins the next stage of our fight against this virus.”

Last month Brown hoped to entice more people to get vaccinated by offering a $1 million prize to one lucky vaccinated Oregonian, $10,000 prizes to one winner in each county and five $100,000 college savings plan scholarships.

She said the initial data shows the lottery is leading to small upticks in vaccination numbers in rural areas.

She said Friday more surprises were on the way.

Individual counties – including Jefferson County – have upped the ante by offering additional lottery prizes to those who get the shot.

Mass vaccination clinics have closed, but smaller pop-up clinics have opened in local schools and even the Deschutes Public Library. 

Locally, more than 66% of eligible Deschutes County residents have been vaccinated; 46% in Crook County and 50% in Jefferson County.

For more info on where to get a shot and to sign up, visit: https://www.stcharleshealthcare.org/CentralOregonCOVIDVaccine

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