Final COVID-19 risk levels announced as statewide opening nears
Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday, June 22, announced what she said would be the last adjustments in the state's county COVID-19 infection risk levels.
Brown said she was confident the state would soon reach her benchmark of 70% of eligible adults statewide who have been given at least one shot of vaccine. At that point, Brown has said she would lift nearly all COVID-19 health, safety, business and event restrictions.
"Fewer than 45,000 more Oregonians need to receive a first dose to achieve a 70% statewide adult vaccination rate," Brown said.
OHA on Tuesday reported that as of noon, about 68.7% of eligible adults had received one shot of vaccine. Another 42,176 vaccinations were needed to reach the goal.
Demand for vaccination has dropped sharply in recent weeks, with less than 5,000 new vaccinations per day recently. At the peak of demand in April, the state surpassed 50,000 vaccinations on its busiest days.
Brown had originally said in early May that she thought the goal could be reached by mid-June. The forecast slid to June 21, then June 25. At current rates, the number will be reached around July 1. But any additional slowing could push that date further away.
In the latest — and officially last — risk level report, several counties moved lower in risk ratings. Jefferson, Klamath and Marion counties moved from high risk to moderate risk in the level ratings issued Tuesday. The new ratings go into effect Friday, June 25.
Six counties remain in the high risk level, currently the state's most restrictive: Columbia, Crook, Douglas, Linn, Malheur and Umatilla. Brown said Clatsop County's cases and rates would have qualified it for high risk level, but the state would allow it a caution week at its current lower risk level ranking in order to try to get its infection rate back down.
Josephine County also met the criteria for high risk, but would be given a caution week at moderate risk to work on dropping its case rates.
As of Friday, 23 counties will be at lower risk, seven at moderate risk and six at high risk. Polk County became the ninth county to move to the lower risk level regardless of the county's infection rates due to meeting the goal of having 65% of residents with at least one shot of vaccine. It's status is effective immediately.
Brown asked Oregon residents to encourage friends and family to get the vaccine as the best way to protect themselves, their families and communities from COVID-19.
The state will hold a drawing June 28 in which one vaccinated Oregon resident will receive $1 million. One resident from each of Oregon's 36 counties will also receive $10,000. The state will also name five students, aged 12 to 17, to receive $100,000 Oregon College Savings Plan scholarships.
OHA confirmed that because the state was close to reaching the governor's target for at least one shot of vaccine, it would no longer issue risk level rankings after Tuesday.
Health officials said the lifting of restrictions by Gov. Brown is subject to U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance for use of masks and physical distancing. President Joe Biden has said he wants Americans to enjoy as close to normal a July 4 holiday as possible.
California and New York recently joined a growing list of states to meet their vaccination goals and "reopen" public life by lifting mask restrictions and allowing larger numbers of visitors to places like Disneyland and Yankee Stadium.
Vaccination in the United States has slowed severe illness and death, though new variants that are more contagious are causing a rebound in some areas. Oregon has reported 206,443 COVID-19 and 2,756 deaths through Monday, June 21, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Slightly less than 33.6 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States since the virus was first found in Washington State in February 2020, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The virus has killed 602,350 in the United States.
The virus is still spreading rapidly in parts of the world, as new variants are also reported. Worldwide, there have been over 178.9 million cases and just under 3.87 million deaths.
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