Calling it a “pivotal moment for Oregon,” Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday COVID restrictions will be lifted and the state will fully reopen no later than June 30th – regardless of how many people have been vaccinated.
“It means effectively, Oregon is 100% open for business,” Brown said in a morning news conference.
She even enticed Oregonians with a $1 million lottery prize for getting the shot.
But vaccinations have slowed in recent weeks and the vaccination rate remains at 69%; 35,290 more people need to get their vaccines for the state to reach 70%
If the state reaches that target before Wednesday, Brown said she will lift the order sooner.
“Brighter days are certainly ahead. And, we are more determined than ever to make sure we ground our state in a strong recovery that reaches every single Oregonian as we turn a new page on this chapter of the pandemic,” she said. “Our work isn’t done, but we can all take a moment to celebrate that by next week, we will all be moving forward together.”
When asked why she didn’t just open the state now – with the state so close to the 70% target and record heat, Brown said she wanted to keep up the vaccination rates over the next several days, but give businesses some certainty about a reopening date.
The announcement means Oregon businesses can plan for a return to full capacity, masks no longer will be needed in most settings and social distancing can end.
Late Friday, the OHA announced it was suspending capacity limits effective immediately at movie theaters, swimming pools and malls to help Oregonians get through an expected heatwave.
As of Thursday, 2,365,580 people have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 2,122,292 have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
June 30th will mark 464 days since Brown announced an initial statewide shutdown, closing non-essential businesses and schools to help stop the spread of COVID as it arrived in Oregon.
Since then, Oregonians have had to deal with COVID restrictions in one form or another as Brown and state health leaders tried to navigate an everchanging pandemic.
An ebb and flow of cases peaked in December and again in early May.
But as vaccination numbers climbed, cases once again started to decline.
As of Thursday night, COVID has killed 2,761 Oregonians and sickened more than 207,000 others.
Brown and the OHA ended the statewide mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in mid-May following new CDC guidance at the time.
She said statewide mask requirements will remain in place only where federal guidance requires such as airports, public transit, and health care settings.
OHA Director Patrick Allen said once the state removes the COVID restrictions for residents, his agency will shift the responsibility of managing COVID to the counties.
“Going forward it will be up to county commissioners and local public health officials to intervene and slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Also Friday, the Oregon Department of Education released new Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 2021-22 School Year.
“The path is clear for students to return to full-time, in-person instruction next year. Working together, we can harness this opportunity to rekindle joy and learning in the classrooms, auditoriums, and playgrounds across Oregon,” ODE Director Colt Gill said. “Oregon schools are ready to once again be vibrant places for learners, staff, and their families.”
Part of the new guidance says most of the COVID safety protocols like masks and social distancing will move to “advisory” next year.
“The switch to advisory means school districts, public charter schools, and private schools will have the option to implement, as appropriate, relevant advisory guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and the Oregon Health Authority, and may require face coverings, physical distancing and other measures,” according to the ODE.
Gill said schools have had more than year of practice on how to mitigate COVID and the new framework is a “logical progression from emergency state direction to local decision-making for keeping students and staff healthy within each school’s unique context.”