Oregon seeing surge of COVID-19 cases as it nears major expansion of vaccine eligibility

Governor Kate Brown and officials from the Oregon Health Authority called a press conference for Friday morning to discuss the state's ongoing coronavirus response.

Posted: Apr 16, 2021 1:07 PM
Updated: Apr 16, 2021 3:03 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown and officials from the Oregon Health Authority called a press conference for Friday morning to discuss the Oregon's current status with coronavirus, noting a surge in cases even as the state nears full vaccine eligibility for all adults.

Brown underlined that all Oregonians 16 and older will become eligible on Monday, urging people to "make a plan" to get vaccinated. As of Friday, Brown said that nearly one in four Oregonians were fully vaccinated.

"If you haven’t already had a chance to get vaccinated, make a plan to do so now," Brown said. "Tell your loved ones and neighbors you plan to get vaccinated, and share your reason why. And if you have already signed up for an appointment, help a friend sign up, too."

Though the state has maintained its course for vaccine eligibility, the nationwide pause on administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine means that availability has taken a sudden and unexpected hit. Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, indicated that new shipments of vaccine doses would largely plateau over the coming weeks without the benefit of a third vaccine.

Capacity of vaccination sites to administer doses has continued to rise across the state, but vaccine supply will likely hamper availability of appointments, Allen said. Nevertheless, Allen said he anticipated that everyone 16 and older who wants the vaccine will receive it "before summer."

More than 1.5 million Oregonians have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, with almost 1 million fully vaccinated. Allen indicated that more than 70 percent of seniors have received the vaccine.

But vaccine eligibility expansions have been accompanied by a mounting surge in new COVID-19 cases. State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said that the "recent data are troubling," with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all on the upswing.

This week, Oregon saw the highest two-day total in new cases since early February. Cases have increased more than 20 percent over the previous week for three weeks straight, and hospitalizations have been increasing quickly after declines seen over January and February.

Sidelinger cited the CDC, which said that B.1.1.7 — the coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom — is now the "dominant strain" in the U.S.

Allen said that state officials are working to correct ongoing issues with vaccine equity, acknowledging that race and income remain major predictors of vaccine access. He said that under-vaccination is especially prevalent in Latino communities.

"Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself against serious illness and death from COVID-19," said Governor Brown. "They are the best way to protect yourself from variants. And they are the key to unlocking the restrictions this pandemic has forced on us, so we can return to doing the things we love and seeing the people we miss."

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