While Gov. Kate Brown and state officials announced encouraging details about the decreasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, they also acknowledge the pandemic is far from over.
“I want to start with some promising news,” Brown announced at an electronic Zoom media briefing from her office in Salem Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 28. “Our hospitalizations are declining with 822 as of today. Cases are slowly declining as well.”
Brown said she and state officials had hoped that by the end of June communities across the state would have been free of COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, Delta changed everything,” she said. “The good news is that while we still have a long way to go it appears things are slowly getting better and everyday there is renewed hope as we see more people get vaccinated, progress on vaccines for our 5 to 11 year olds, and now, the beginning of boosters for some of our most vulnerable.”
Brown also confirmed that booster shots will now be available for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable.
“Thank you to everyone who is getting vaccinated and wearing your mask,” she said. “Your efforts are truly saving lives. Vaccines continue to be key to putting this pandemic behind us.”
Brown said those Oregonians now eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioTech booster shots include, seniors, people living in long-term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions and people who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission, due to occupational or institutional settings. She said anyone in those groups can schedule a booster shot appoint immediately. The vaccines are free and readily available across the state, according to Brown.
“Everyone who is eligible for a booster will get one,” she said.
Brown said booster shots for those that have received the Moderna and J&J vaccinations will have to be patient and wait for federal guidance before those boosters can be administered.
Oregon’s deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Tom Jeanne said COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining because more people are being vaccinated and people are wearing masks in public places.
“We cannot drop our guard and risk a resurgence that would overwhelm our health care system.” he said
Oregon’s health care workers and the state resources have been severely strained for too long, according to Jeanne. He also urged those who are not vaccinated, to get vaccinated.
“If you’re unvaccinated, you’ve never been more vulnerable to being stricken by the virus, passing the virus on to your loved ones, getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19,” Jeanne said.
Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said out of the 13,000 schools in Oregon, only four have gone entirely to distant learning for a short period of time due to the pandemic impact.
“Quarantine is one of the great challenges this year,” Gill said. "We have school staffing challenges that we are trying to overcome. Vaccinated staff do not have to be quarantined.”
Gill said the keys to keeping schools open and students safe are for eligible students and school staff to get vaccinated, wear masks and practice social distancing.
Gill said the ODE is working with school districts to help them develop appropriate quarantine protocols. Brown added that the state also is expanding COVID-19 testing.
Jeanne pointed out that due to supply chain shortage issues, conducting the testing has been challenged.
When pressed by a reporter suggesting a spike in COVID-19 cases in Eastern Oregon may be the result of the popular Pendleton Roundup and asking if she or someone in the state made a mistake to allow the event, Brown replied that Oregon has some of the strongest safety protocols in the nation and that the state requires masks indoors in public places and masks are required in outdoor locations.
“At some level, particularly in large events, like the Pendleton Roundup or a U of O Duck football game, it has got to be an individual's responsibility,” she said. “I have asked Oregonians time and time again to be considerate and kind to their fellow Oregonians. It is so incredibility important for Oregonians to wear masks and to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already.”
Brown added that she is “very gravely” concerned about the rural area COVID-19 spikes.
“We know that rural communities are more medically vulnerable and may not have the expensive health care capacity that we have in metro Oregon,” she said.
Brown said efforts to provide support to hospitals and health care centers around in the state, including rural Oregon are continuing.