(Update: Adding governor's news release, links)
Frontline workers -- and their families -- now eligible for vaccine
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – Despite a rising number of vaccinated Oregonians and widening eligibility, “the fourth surge of the virus is at our doorstep,” Gov. Kate Brown said Friday as she and state health officials pleaded with the public to keep up safety measures, despite growing COVID fatigue.
Fortunately, Brown said, Oregon hasn’t matched some other state’s large spikes in cases, but “our numbers are rising, and we’re back on alert.”
“This is a race between the vaccines and the variants,” the governor said. “I know we’re all fed up with the pandemic … but we are in the last few miles of a marathon. We’ve come so far, run so hard, and are so close to the finish line. Don’t let the vaccines and the sunny, warm weather give us a false sense of security that we’re in the clear, because we’re not.”
Once again, Brown noted that Oregon consistently has had one of the nation’s lowest infection and mortality rates, thanks to Oregonians following those masking and distancing protocols. If we had the same infection rates as the national average, Brown said, we’d have had three times as many Oregonians die – more than 4,000 additional deaths.
“Your actions, and your smart choices have saved lives,” Brown told Oregonians. “Thank you.”
Despite the contamination that destroyed 15 million doses of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, increased shipments allowed Brown to announce that family members of frontline workers newly eligible for the vaccine are now also eligible for the vaccine as week. When grocery workers and other frontline workers make their appointments, Brown urged them to “make them for your entire family – adults of course.”
On Friday, Oregon also expanded its criteria of “underlying conditions” to match the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list.
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said Oregon won’t delay its eligibility timelines for the vaccine, despite the Johnson & Johnson disruption, and plans to hold to the national May 1 deadline for opening vaccine appointments to all Oregonians 16 and older.
Some counties could move to that phase by April 26, if appointments are available and strong efforts are being made to reach out to those at the highest risk of contracting the virus.
Oregon is averaging 33,000 vaccinations a day, but Allen and others expressed concern that demand has plateaued among senior Oregonians.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, said while counties have seen improved risk levels in recent weeks, some could go the other way if cases continue to rise. He also expressed concern about the recent increase in daily cases and uptick in hospitalizations.
“COVID-19 is a resilient enemy,” Sidelinger said – while also noting that the numbers make clear that “schools are not a driver of transmission.”
News release from Gov. Brown's office:
Governor Kate Brown Announces Expanded Eligibility for Family of Frontline Workers, People with Underlying Conditions
Governor warns: "Fourth surge of the virus is at our doorstep."
(Salem, OR) — In a press briefing with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Governor Kate Brown today announced Oregon is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include all family members of frontline workers. She also announced that Oregon is expanding its criteria of underlying health conditions to match the CDC's extended list. The Governor was joined by Patrick Allen, OHA Director, and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, State Epidemiologist.
"As we move into the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to deploy a vaccine strategy that is centered on prioritizing our most vulnerable, and ensuring access to the vaccine for everyone. To do this, we need to move in a manner that is both fast and fair," said Governor Brown.
"If you are a frontline worker as defined by the CDC, when you make a vaccine appointment for yourself, make them for your whole family, too. If you’re attending a community vaccine event, bring your family with you. We know it is not easy for everyone to find the time and transportation to get a vaccine. If you’re a frontline worker making the effort, bring your family, and do it all together."
The Governor is also asking Coordinated Care Organizations and commercial health insurance providers to reach out to their members with underlying conditions to share information about the importance of vaccinations, and how to get connected to a vaccine.
The Governor warned that Oregon's increase in cases and hospitalizations over the past two weeks is cause for concern: "It’s clear that, in Oregon and across the country, the fourth surge of this virus is at our doorstep. While Oregon’s case numbers fortunately haven’t matched those of other states seeing large spikes, our numbers are rising and we are back on alert.
"The good news is, now when we face a surge, we know how to protect ourselves and others with powerful safety measures like mask wearing and avoiding large social gatherings. And we have three safe and effective vaccines rapidly rolling out. But make no mistake, this is a race between the vaccines and the variants. It is a critical moment for us all to double down so we can outrun this next wave."
- A recording of today's live-streamed press conference is available on YouTube. Please note the video starts at the 15:18 mark.
- A recording of a Spanish language translation is available on OHA's Facebook page.
A copy of the Governor's prepared remarks from today's press conference is available here.
More information on vaccines is available at covidvaccine.oregon.gov.