Nearly all COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted in as early as just over two weeks, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday, June 4.
The state is about 127,000 adults short of the goal of getting at least one shot of vaccine into 70% of eligible residents. Once the state crosses the threshold, Brown said she would lift masking, business capacity, event size, social distance and other limits that Oregonians have dealt with for more than a year.
"We can fully reopen — we can all look forward to that," she said.
Local health officials would then take over the daily decision-making and operations in counties from the Oregon Health Authority.
Brown said even very large events, such as the Pendleton Round-Up in September, would be good to go once the state hits its target vaccination rate.
Oregon's statewide mark stood at 66.2% on Wednesday, June 2. OHA Director Pat Allen said that if the pace continues, the mark would be hit about June 21. "This is not a slam dunk," Allen said.
Allen said that the June 30 deadline set earlier in the year by the governor was well within reach. "It will take a lot of work by a lot of people to get it done," Allen said.
Lifting restrictions would include:
• Ending the risk level system for counties of lower, moderate, high and extreme.
• Ending a state requirement for masks and face coverings in almost all settings. Exceptions would be airports, public transit, and health care settings that follow federal agency guidelines.
• End requirements for individuals to show vaccination verification in public venues and businesses.
• Allow K-12 students to attend school in-person, 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.
Pandemic still a shadow
Current health and safety standards, including indoor mask requirements, will remain in place in workplaces, schools and child care settings. Colleges and universities can make their own decisions on protocols after considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
Brown said the move would not mean the pandemic was over in Oregon. She will re-examine whether or not to lift her emergency order that gave her a wide latitude on public health decisions.
"The pandemic will not be over," Brown said.
To try to increase the vaccination rate toward the goal, many pharmacies will extend hours to reach out to more people who want shots.
"Some people are not vaccine resistant, but vaccine inconvenienced," Allen said.
Brown also reiterated plans to give away $1 million to a vaccinated Oregonian, along with $10,000 to a vaccinated person in each of the 36 counties. Scholarships worth $100,000 are also being offered to lucky vaccinated youth.
Brown and OHA officials said it was time to push past the current levels of inoculation as medical evidence and state statistics show the impact of the virus has separated residents into two groups with very different likely futures.
Those with vaccination are almost completely free of infections, severe illness and death. But the pandemic is still "a shadow" across the state for those who are not inoculated. OHA said nine out of 10 deaths are among people who have no record of vaccination. Children, immunocompromised and those who have not been able to get vaccinated must still be considered when communities decide what steps to take.
"There are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel and stay safe," Brown said.
Those battling cancer, immunocompromised Oregonians, and organ donors were among those still needing protection, to name a few. There are also many Oregon children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
"So, it will remain incredibly important for Oregonians to continue making smart choices," Brown said.
OHA will continue to monitor the global pandemic and provide assistance and resources, but will increasingly advise local officials on measures to take. OHA and CDC are expected to issue more guidance in coming days as the state nears the 70% goal.
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