'Tale of two pandemics' she says - OHA, Bend doctor says vast majority of cases involve unvaccinated
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday the steps the state will take to lift COVID-19 health and safety restrictions and fully reopen the economy after 70% of all Oregonians 18 and older have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine -- an approaching goal, with the current figure over 66%
Because vaccines are very effective at protecting against COVID-19, after reaching the 70% threshold, Oregon will lift most state restrictions and move away from a state-led emergency COVID-19 response effort, shifting focus to pandemic recovery and supporting local public health and health care providers with resources, the governor said..
As of Thursday, Oregon had achieved a 66.2% vaccination rate for individuals 18 and older, with 127,308 more people needing to receive a first dose to reach 70%. About 127,000 more Oregonians need to be vaccinated to reach the 70% goal, officials said.
If vaccination trends continue, despite a recent decline, the state could reach that point by June 21, which happens to be the first day of summer, and more likely by the initially set target of June 30.
“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines. For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point — and you are protected from this virus,” Brown said. “However, there are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel and stay safe. People battling cancer, immunocompromised Oregonians, and organ donors to name a few. There are also many Oregon kids who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
“So it will remain incredibly important for Oregonians to continue making smart choices. And, to respect the choices of others. Let’s respect one another as we prepare to make this transition.
“This has really become a tale of two pandemics. If you are vaccinated, then you’re protected, and you can carry on safely without wearing a mask and social distancing. However, if you are not vaccinated, this virus still poses a very real threat.”
After reaching the 70% threshold, Oregon will take the following steps to lift restrictions:
• Oregon’s Risk Level framework, including all county-based metrics and health and safety restrictions, will be lifted. This includes mask, physical distancing, and capacity limit requirements.
• The state will not require masks and face coverings in almost all settings, with some exceptions following federal guidance, including airports, public transit, and health care settings.
• Because the same mask and social distancing rules will apply for all individuals— vaccinated or unvaccinated—vaccine verification will not be necessary.
• It will still be strongly recommended that unvaccinated individuals and other vulnerable individuals continue to wear masks and practice other health and safety measures to stay safe from COVID-19. Recognizing that COVID-19 will still be present in our communities and that many Oregonians remain unvaccinated, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will have an ongoing leadership role working with local public health partners in pandemic response and recovery:
• OHA will continue to monitor the global pandemic and provide assistance and resources to local public health and health care providers as needed––including establishing protocols to test, trace, and control the spread of COVID-19 in the same capacity as they have for other infectious diseases and worldwide outbreaks (such as SARS and Ebola).
• OHA will continue to serve in a monitoring and advisory role, working with local public health partners on continuing vaccination efforts, pandemic response, and recovery.
• OHA’s health and safety guidance for businesses, venues, faith organizations, and other sectors will be lifted. Oregon OSHA will review their workplace rules and update them based on the lifting of the Risk Level framework and OHA
• Oregon will continue to devote statewide resources to pandemic response and recovery, but the state will lift most current health and safety restrictions on individuals and businesses.
Children younger than 12 are still not eligible to be vaccinated. Some specific health and safety measures will remain in place for schools and child care:
• Because many children are still not eligible for vaccination and remain vulnerable to COVID-19, local schools will be guided by health and safety guidance as students resume a normal school year in the fall.
• Students will attend school full-time, five days per week. K-12 guidance is being revised to support schools in safely delivering in-person instruction throughout the school day.
• For the same reasons, some health and safety standards for child care providers and youth programs will remain in place.
• Recently revised workplace standards, including indoor mask requirements for unvaccinated employees, remain in place for schools and child care settings.
• For colleges and universities, where students are eligible for vaccination, individual institutions will make decisions about health and safety protocols for the coming year, after considering forthcoming CDC guidance.
Governor Brown made the announcement Friday in a press conference with OHA Director Patrick Allen, state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger, and Dr. Louis D’Avignon, a pulmonary critical care physician at St. Charles Bend and a member of Brown's Medical Advisory Panel.
D’Avignon offered some statistics to show how few of the recent COVID-19 patients have been vaccinated.
Since March 1, 346 patients have been hospitalized for COVID infection, he said, and only 18 were vaccinated. Of the 98 deaths that have occurred in the hospital system, 97 were unvaccinated, he said.
“The numbers and our experience on the ground show vaccinations are incredibly effective,” D’Avignon said.
Along with seeing younger patients, their length of stay in the ICU averages two weeks, with some much longer, he said, adding that there have been “more virulent variants in our community.”
“This is, essentially, a preventable disease, for almost everyone,” D’Avignon said. “We don’t need to see this happening over and over again in our hospitals and ICU.”
- A copy of the Governor's prepared remarks from Friday's press conference is available here.
- More information on vaccines is available at covidvaccine.oregon.gov.