Governor Kate Brown today announced that the cancelation of the state’s warning week system may be necessary next week to combat the COVID-19 crisis Oregon currently faces. She said that a fourth surge of cases has arrived and that right now, in a race between vaccines and variants, “the variants are gaining ground and have the upper hand. Today’s cases topped 1,000, with Oregon now ranking second in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread.”
Oregon hospitals are about to surpass 300 patients who are positive for COVID-19, crossing the threshold that would place at least 12 counties into the extreme risk level. These counties would be required to reinstate restrictions associated with the highest risk level, including closure of restaurants and bars to indoor dining and nursing homes to indoor visits. Malheur County is currently not likely to be among them, but the warning week has twice kept the county from moving to a higher level of the state’s four-tier system. Gov. Brown said the data will be analyzed again early next week before determinations are made.
Vaccines are the key to moving Oregon forward and preventing Malheur County from returning to the higher or extreme risk levels. The overwhelming majority of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are among people who are not vaccinated, and the virus is affecting younger people and those with no underlying medical conditions. Common-sense safety measures like mask wearing and maintaining 6 feet of distance will need to stay in place for a while longer, until the majority of Oregonians are vaccinated. Gov. Brown said she believes the state will be able to lift most restrictions and fully reopen the economy no later than the end of June. “We will all need to make smart choices over the next several weeks so that we can move forward and into post-pandemic life.”
About half of all Oregonians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said today. Malheur County, with about 23% of its population vaccinated, has the second-to-lowest vaccination rate in the state.
A video of today’s press conference is available here. The conference begins at the 28:20 mark.