Oregon is on the very cusp of fully reopening its economy in the wake of the pandemic, with no capacity limits on businesses and a repeal of the mask mandate in most places, but for now, we remain one of the most restricted states in the Union.
That title became all but official this week, when Oregon’s progressive neighbor to the south, California, fully reopened its economy — as planned — on June 15.
To be fair, many parts of the state, including Clackamas County, are more open than they have been in over a year.
Twenty-two of the state’s 36 counties — including its three most populous — are firmly in the lowest and least restrictive tier of the governor’s reopening framework, which allows restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and other such businesses to operate at 50% capacity.
Only nine remain in the most restrictive phase. And the risk system itself is likely to disappear altogether very soon.
When 70% of adults in Oregon have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, the governor has vowed to fully reopen all counties and do away with the mask mandate except in a few places where the federal government still recommends them or has jurisdiction, like public transit, airports, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
As of Tuesday, Oregon’s first-dose vaccination rate was at 68% — with only an estimate 65,000 needed to reach the state’s goal.
“We are incredibly close to achieving a 70% statewide adult vaccination rate, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and lifting health and safety restrictions,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday.
“Vaccines are the best way for Oregonians to protect themselves, their families, and communities against Covid-19. Because so many Oregonians have stepped up to get vaccinated, Oregon’s case rates and hospitalizations have continued to decline.”
But case rates and hospitalizations are also declining in states that have fully reopened, say critics like House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, of Canby, who released a statement Tuesday urging Brown to follow California’s lead.
“Oregon does not need to be the most restrictive state on the West Coast, or one of the last states to reopen nationwide,” she said. “Oregonians have sacrificed so much during this pandemic. We should recognize their contributions by reopening the state at the same time as our neighbors.”
Drazan applauded the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting the most vulnerable Oregonians from serious complications, while also saying that the natural immunity of those who have already battled the coronavirus is “very promising.”
“If we include Oregonians with natural immunity, then we are well above the 70% threshold to reopen the state,” Drazan said. “Oregonians have been through enough. They do not need to wait another day. Vaccines are readily available, and individuals can still wear masks if they choose. It is time for the state to return to normal by lifting emergency orders now.”
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