There are new developments in Oregon's efforts to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Kate Brown today announced updates to county risk levels under the state's new public health framework to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19.
Columbia County remains as an extreme high risk county.
The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level.
Effective Jan. 15 through January 28, there will be 26 counties in the Extreme Risk level, two at High Risk, two at Moderate Risk, and six at Lower Risk.
“With four counties moving back to Extreme Risk, this week we are reminded that health and safety measures continue to be of utmost importance, even when we slow the spread of COVID-19," Brown said. "I want to remind all Oregonians to continue to do their part by abiding by the health and safety guidelines in place. Until vaccines are widely available with high participation rates, the surest way to open our communities is to continue practicing the measures we know are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, keep physical distance from others, avoid gatherings, wash your hands often, and stay home when you are sick."
The Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly. County risk levels will be reassigned every two weeks. The first week's data will provide a "warning week" to prepare counties for potential risk level changes. The next assignment of risk levels will be announced January 26 and take effect Jan. 29.
Vaccines for the elderly
Following today’s updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Brown announced that Oregon will be expanding COVID-19 vaccinations to include all individuals age 65 and older.
In addition, the federal government announced it would be releasing its full reserve of vaccines available to states, rather than holding some doses in storage. Vaccination of Oregon seniors––as well as child care providers and early learning and K-12 educators and staff––will start on January 23, when additional vaccine shipments are expected to begin arriving from the federal government.
“While this is an unexpected change in course from the federal government, receiving more vaccines is welcome news for states — and Oregon is ready to devote all resources necessary to ramp up distribution with our health care partners,” Brown said.
According to Brown, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon National Guard have already begun working with hospitals, pharmacies, and local public health partners to ensure Oregon seniors and educators have ready access to a vaccine.
Brown said the state will be detailing plans on Friday for the rapid deployment of vaccines to health care providers and mass vaccination sites across Oregon.
“If you are an Oregonian who is newly eligible for vaccination, I am asking for your patience," Brown said. "Please, do not call your doctor’s office or health care provider with questions about when you can be vaccinated."
Brown said today’s news arrived with no advance notice from the federal government. Oregon health care providers are working as fast as humanly possible to shift their vaccine distribution plans to meet this sudden change in national guidance, she said.
“Now, more than ever, I am determined to ensure that communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 have access to a vaccine: Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, tribal, Latino, Latina, and Latinx, Pacific Islander, and communities of color," Brown said. "Reaching educators and individuals aged 65 and older from these communities is absolutely critical, as we strive to achieve equitable vaccine distribution in each phase of this process.”
Brown and the Oregon Health Authority will provide more details on Oregon's distribution plans for seniors and educators, as well as how Oregon will continue to reach those populations most vulnerable to COVID-19, on Friday.