Brown sets 70% vaccination goal to lift COVID restrictions, reopen economy

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The key to opening Oregon’s economy is now in the hands of Oregonians – and their willingness to get the COVID vaccine.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday she will scrap many of the current COVID restrictions in place across the state as soon as 70% of Oregonians 16 and over have at least their first dose of the vaccine.

Brown said it appears the state has “crossed the tipping point of the fourth surge,” and she’s confident the state can reach her vaccination goal by June.

“Our hospitalization rates have stabilized. Our infection rates are on a downward trajectory. And in the race between vaccines and variants, our efforts to vaccinate Oregonians are taking the lead,” she said. “It brings us to a pivotal moment we’ve all been waiting for. We can truly begin taking steps forward and into the next chapter of post-pandemic life.”

As of Monday afternoon, 60% of Oregonians have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said CDC data will be used to determine Oregon’s progress toward 70% because the agency offers a more comprehensive picture that includes numbers from the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, and other federal entities.

“The CDC data also enables us to compare our progress against the same goal the Biden administration has set for the nation,” Allen said. (CDC includes everyone who is 16 and older in their 18+ data.)

However, the CDC data is not reliable at the county level, Allen said.

Current Vaccination Rates

Oregon: 60% (per CDC)
Deschutes: 61% (per OHA)
Crook: 42% (per OHA)
Jefferson: 46% (per OHA)

Another 430,000 people need to get their vaccine for the state to reach the 70% mark.

“So Oregon, this is our goal. We each play a part. If you have already been vaccinated, thank you,” she said. “Now help a friend, family member or neighbor make an appointment. Spread the word that folks can call 2-1-1 or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov for more information.”

Once the vaccination goal is met, you’ll still need to wear a mask and social distance in some cases per CDC guidelines, but other safety requirements and restrictions under the Risk Level framework will be lifted.

Restaurants, gyms, churches, music and sports venues, and more would be able to return to full capacity and set the stage for something close to a normal summer.

Brown specifically mentioned the famed Pendleton Roundup, saying “I would fully expect that we will be able to let er buck, so to speak, in September.”

In Bend, officials with Les Schwab Amphitheater hope music lovers across the state heed the governor’s request to get the COVID shot.

“We will do everything in our power to encourage Oregonians to get the vaccine so we can all get back to normal,” said Marney Smith, the amphitheater’s general manager. “The willingness of our community to get the vaccination is directly tied to our ability to get back to work and put on the concerts people love.”

Even if the state meets Brown’s vaccination goal, schools will still be required to follow the state’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners requirements for the rest of this year.

But some good news heading into next fall: the guidance will be updated and most of those restrictions will be lifted.

Allen called the governor’s goal a “pivotal point in the pandemic.”

“For the first time since the start of the pandemic, we’ll be able to say the virus no longer controls the timelines in our lives,” he said. “We will, if enough Oregonians make the choice to get vaccinated.”

Until the statewide 70% goal is met, Brown said counties will have the option of moving to the Lower Risk category once 65% of its residents 16 and over have at least one dose of the vaccine.

Counties must also submit a plan to close equity gaps in vaccinations.

“I would fully expect that we will be able to let er buck,
so to speak, in September.”
– Gov. Kate Brown on the Pendleton Roundup taking place

Currently, 61% of the eligible population 16+ have had at least one dose of the vaccine in Deschutes County; 42% in Crook and 46% in Jefferson, according to the OHA.

All three currently are in the “High Risk” category, which limits crowds in restaurants, bars, gyms, and others.

And while cases appear to be falling across the state, Deschutes County last week reported the second-highest weekly tally since the pandemic began.

Still, it was about 25 fewer cases than the week before and ended a six-week streak of climbing cases locally.

The governor announced her Risk Levels in November, which set into motion tightened restrictions in counties where COVID continued to spread.

In Deschutes County, it initially forced restaurants and bars to offer take-out only, closed gyms and put in place many other rules on gathering sizes both in homes and businesses.

With the ebb and flow of cases over the next few months, the restrictions and Risk Levels yo-yo’d, putting a strain on businesses trying to get through the winter and residents trying to make sense of the ever-changing rules.

Meanwhile, counties across the state have been working feverishly trying to vaccinate as many people as possible.

At first, the federal shipments couldn’t keep up with the demand of older Oregonians who were first in line for the vaccines.

Since then, those shipments have increased and vaccine appointments are readily available for anyone who wants one, surpassing 34,000 a day statewide.

“We still have some work to do to reach our 70% goal, but I am confident we can get there in June and return Oregon to a sense of normalcy,” Brown said.

Central Oregon Vaccination Information:

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