After drawing condemnation for a one-week indoor dining ban in Clackamas County and 14 other counties that some Republican critics accused of causing “whiplash,” Governor Kate Brown’s message Tuesday couldn’t have been more clear: If you want businesses to reopen with few or no restrictions, get vaccinated.
Counties in which 65% of residents 16 and older have taken at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will be eligible to move into the “low risk” category of the governor’s reopening framework — which would mean much greater capacity for many local businesses and fewer restrictions than Clackamas County has seen since the pandemic began in March 2020.
That threshold is tantalizingly close in Clackamas County — the state’s third-largest — where 52.4% had received at least one jab as of Tuesday, according to officials.
Clackamas County, OR on Twitter: “#Breaking: Governor Brown just announced that counties can move to low risk when at least 65% of the eligible population received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 52.4% of #ClackCo residents received at least one dose of the vaccine. Keep it up! / Twitter”
Breaking: Governor Brown just announced that counties can move to low risk when at least 65% of the eligible population received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 52.4% of #ClackCo residents received at least one dose of the vaccine. Keep it up!
And Brown promised to do away with the risk levels altogether — and lift statewide restrictions with the exception of “some mask and distancing requirements,” based on CDC recommendations — when 70% of Oregonians 16 and older have received the first dose.
At a press availability Tuesday, she said she believes the state can hit that mark as early as next month.
“So Oregon, this is our goal,” she said. “We each play a part. If you have already been vaccinated, thank you. Now help a friend, family member or neighbor make an appointment. Spread the word that folks can call 2-1-1 or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov for more information.”
The governor credited increasing vaccination rates for heading off the “fourth surge” of new infections and hospitalizations that caused her to — briefly — shut down restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues in much of the state.
“Thanks to you, Oregon, it looks like we’ve crossed the tipping point of the fourth surge,” said Brown. “Our hospitalization rates have stabilized. Our infection rates are on a downward trajectory. And in the race between vaccines and variants, our efforts to vaccinate Oregonians are taking the lead.”
After achieving a statewide vaccination rate of at least 70% — the minimum threshold for herd immunity, according to health experts — Oregon “may continue requiring some use of masks and physical distancing” as state officials assess the situation and evaluate the best way forward, Brown said.
All other health and safety requirements for counties will be lifted, and counties will no longer be assigned risk levels.
Public schools will still be required to follow state health and safety requirements, but the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education will also be expected to lift most restrictions based on CDC guidance.
To be eligible to move down risk levels, counties must also submit a plan detailing how they will “close the equity gaps” in their vaccination efforts. The state will offer resources toward achieving those goals, including additional funding as they demonstrate progress.
The county is prepared on that front — according to officials.
“We have an equity plan that we’ve been using since January with input from vaccine partners and community members,” the county said on its Twitter account Tuesday. “Once we receive more direction from the state, we will know if we need to update the plan or if we can send our current plan.”
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