Gov. Brown thanks Oregonians for efforts, year after first COVID-19 case
(Update: Oregon Health Authority director also pens open letter)
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — Gov. Kate Brown issued the following statement on Sunday, one year after the first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Oregon:
“For so many Oregonians, after living through the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, flooding, severe winter weather, and a long-overdue reckoning on racism and racial justice, our lives are far different than they were on Feb. 28, one year ago.
“Through it all, I have been inspired by the way Oregonians have pulled together and helped one another. Because of your smart choices to protect friends and family, Oregon has maintained some of the lowest infection, hospitalization and death rates in the nation throughout the pandemic.
“Today, I want to take a moment to say: Thank you, Oregon.
“Thank you to all our front-line workers––from our doctors, nurses and health care workers who have worked tirelessly to save lives, to the agricultural, food processing, and grocery workers who have kept food on our tables throughout the pandemic, to first responders, postal workers, transportation workers, restaurant and food service workers, educators and school support staff, and the many more who have kept us all going.
“Thank you to everyone who has helped friends and neighbors in need––from Oregonians experiencing hunger or homelessness, to those displaced by wildfires, to those who lost jobs and livelihoods during the pandemic.
“Thank you to parents and caregivers, especially working mothers, who have balanced school, work, and family responsibilities in ways we never before imagined.
“We must also acknowledge that this pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Tribal, Latino, Latina, and Latinx, Pacific Islander, Asian, and communities of color, as well as our immigrant and refugee communities. We must do better––to build a stronger, more just, more equitable Oregon for everyone who lives here.
“With our vaccine efforts ramping up, the light at the end of the tunnel grows closer each day. We are reopening school buildings, businesses, and communities. But we must keep up our guard, with new, more contagious COVID-19 variants circulating in the United States, including in Oregon.
“Today and every day, we remember the more than 2,200 Oregonians we have lost. Our hearts are with the families who have lost loved ones to this deadly disease. We must continue to keep each other safe by wearing masks, avoiding gatherings with people from outside our households, maintaining distance, washing our hands, and staying home while sick.
“But while we must continue to keep our physical distance from one another, we will get through the rest of this pandemic the same way we have come this far: together.”
(Salem – Feb. 28, 2021) Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen released an open letter to Oregonians to mark the one-year anniversary of Oregon’s first COVID-19 case.
Open Letter to Oregon
By Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority
It’s been one year since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Oregon. Twelve grim months later, nothing is the same. The pandemic has claimed more than half a million lives in the United States. More than 2,200 Oregonians have died with the coronavirus. All of us have felt their loss. All of us have seen our lives altered: a beloved grandparent’s lonely wave through the glass of a nursing home window. The empty storefront of a bedrock local business. Birthdays, graduations and anniversaries awkwardly celebrated on a screen instead of in-person. Frustration as parents struggle to help kids in school while trying to meet work demands.
But there’s another number Oregonians should bear in mind, especially as we confront the coming months of the pandemic: 4,000. That’s approximately the number of lives you’ve saved by wearing a mask, limiting in-person gatherings and maintaining social distance.
Oregon was one of the first states in the nation to report a case of COVID-19, but a year later our state has the 4th lowest coronavirus case rate in the nation, the 4th lowest death rate and the 4th lowest COVID-19 death rate among seniors. If Oregon’s death rate matched the nation’s, three times as many Oregonians would have lost their lives.
You made the difference. Month after month, deep into the pandemic, about 8 in 10 Oregonians continue to observe lifesaving pandemic precautions. While we know who’s died from COVID-19 – in ages ranging from under 1 to more than 100 years old, we’ll never know for sure whom you’ve saved. Maybe it’s an esteemed elder who’s alive to lead a virtual devotional group for his faith community. A middle-age mother who’s here to help her daughter apply for college. A thirtysomething who agrees to be best man at his friend’s wedding, once the pandemic is over. Maybe it’s someone reading this message. Maybe it’s you.
State and local public health actions saved lives too. Governor Kate Brown issued early stay at home orders. Our state was the first in the nation to protect the most vulnerable nursing home residents by limiting visitation. Oregon put limits on bars, restaurants, gyms and other types of businesses that could fuel the virus’ spread. Those limits figured as vital factors in Oregon’s life-saving calculus – but they came with undeniable costs to workers and business owners. Still, and unlike other states, Oregon kept manufacturing and construction going, blunting the worst-case economic fallout on working families.
Here’s another number: 973,022. That’s the number of COVID-19 vaccine first and second doses Oregon nurses and other vaccinators have administered so far, as of today. It’s true Oregon’s vaccine roll-out has been no less bumpy than it has been elsewhere. Yet Oregon has fully vaccinated about 1 in 12 adults, putting us ahead of most other states (Oregon ranks 16th in the percent of people fully vaccinated).
But the pandemic isn’t over. More contagious and more dangerous variants of the virus are taking hold. We are in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as we can.
It’s been a hard year. On top of the pandemic, we’ve endured historic wildfires that also claimed lives, displaced thousands and obliterated the homes and businesses that comprised entire communities. We’ve awakened to an overdue reckoning with racial injustice – including unacceptable health inequities. Winter storms compounded our discomfort and disruption.
We’re tired. But we can’t give up.
With gratitude, and respect for all the lifesaving sacrifices you’ve made so far, I ask Oregonians to:
- Keep wearing masks, limiting your social get-togethers and maintaining your physical distance. Until we know more, we need to keep our guard up.
- Choose to get vaccinated when you are eligible, as soon as an appointment is available to you.
On Friday, Governor Brown told Oregonians we are speeding up our timelines to vaccinate Oregonians. Over the next month, we expect to vaccinate more than 3 in 4 seniors. People with underlying health conditions will be eligible on March 29th. Frontline workers will be eligible no later than May 1. And we’ll open vaccinations to the first healthy members of the general public no later than June 1.
I know many people have questions about COVID-19 vaccines. I know the experience of racism and memories of historical trauma and medical experimentation are alive in many communities. Other people are wary of government.
Yet once again, we depend on each other to save lives. The COVID-19 vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones and return to more of our normal life. We need enough Oregonians to get immunized, so all of us are protected.
Thank you for the lives you’ve saved so far and the lives we can all save in the months to come.