After 16 Months, Oregon Sets a Date for Ending Its COVID-19 Restrictions
Oregon will abandon its statewide mask mandate, capacity limits, and all other COVID-19 related restrictions by June 30, regardless of whether the state has hit the 70 percent adult vaccination target previously outlined by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
In recent days, the pace of new vaccinations had slowed to a crawl, pushing the likely date of reaching the 70 percent target further and further into July, even as over 2.3 million Oregonians have already gotten a first dose.
“We are on the doorstep of a 70 percent adult vaccination rate,” Oregon Health Authority director Pat Allen said on Friday.
The state ranks 18th in the nation of the percentage of adults that have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. In Multnomah County, its most populous, the adult vaccination rate is at least 71 percent.
Before Friday, Oregon was one of just a small handful of states that hadn’t either reopened already or set a firm date for doing so. Now, only Hawaii has yet to set a firm date for reopening; Washington, Oregon and New Mexico have dates set, but have not yet opened. Meanwhile, cases across the U.S. have continued to fall, emerging at their lowest rates since testing was widespread last spring; deaths and hospitalizations have also fallen, in Oregon and nationally, though still about 300 deaths are being reported each day.
“Businesses and venues need certainty in terms of reopening,” Brown said Friday, in explaining why she had decided to switch to a date instead of sticking with the 70 percent goal. Aligning with Washington state’s planned opening on June 30 was also a consideration, she added.
With much of the state facing extreme heat this weekend, Allen said that the state was looking at emergency lifting of capacity limits on public spaces that could serve as cooling centers.
In this new phase of the pandemic, decision making will shift back to county public health agencies and health care providers, who will continue to work on vaccination drives, particularly in more rural areas and among Black, Indigenous, Latino, and other communities of color, where vaccination rates remain lower than among the white population.
"Vaccination rates among Blacks, American Indians/Alaskan Natives and the Hispanic/Latinx community all grew by 1.4% to 1.6%, exceeding the statewide growth rate and at least doubling the rate of growth among whites, who grew at just .7%."— OR Health Authority (@OHAOregon) June 25, 2021
In the absence of statewide mandates, public health agencies will also make recommendations to schools, child-care centers, and other outlets about extending any pandemic precautions, with an intent to scale those based on local transmission and vaccination rates. That might include guidance on masks, quarantining, ventilation, hand-washing, and distancing, according to Oregon Department of Education head Colt Gill.