Reopening hinges on vaccinations

By on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

Salem – Gov. Kate Brown said that most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted statewide when 70 percent of Oregonians 16 and older receive a first dose of a vaccine. Starting May 21, counties are eligible to move to the lower risk category when 65 percent of the residents 16 and older receive a first dose. Counties must also submit a plan to close equity gaps in vaccine distribution.

Brown said that the state appears to be on the downward swing of the fourth surge of the COVID-19 virus.

“Our hospitalization rates have stabilized,” she said. “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.”

Brown thanked residents who have been vaccinated and urged them to help get others to schedule appointments.

As for new risk level rankings that go into effect Friday, Morrow County remains in low risk and Umatilla County is still high risk with 20 other counties.

Brown said she will lift most of the health and safety restrictions imposed by the risk level framework once at least 70 percent of the citizens are vaccinated.  The state may still require some face mask usage and physical distancing when the risk levels are lifted.

Umatilla County is the lowest in the state for percent of the population vaccinated. It counts roughly 24 percent of residents are vaccinated.

“It is somewhat disconcerting these numbers do not include several large groups that would make a difference,” Umatilla County Board of Commissioners Chairman George Murdock said.

People not included in the county’s count are those who were vaccinated at Yellowhawk, the VA Center in Walla Walla, and others who received their vaccinations in Washington state.

“With Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla counties on our border and the medical destination of many residents, we might be in better shape than it appears, but still way short of where we need to be,” he said.