By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

State to lift COVID restrictions

Despite worries by some experts, Governor Kate Brown announced Friday that Oregon will end its COVID-19 health and safety restrictions June 30, whether or not the state has reached a 70% adult vaccination rate.

“I’m proud of our collective efforts to vaccinate more than 2.3 million Oregonians. It is because of this success that we can move Oregon forward, and into the next chapter of this pandemic. We are ready,” Brown said. She has been under increasing pressure to lift the restrictions, although the highly transmissible Delta variant is spreading nationwide and some experts have warned that lifting restrictions may also reduce the incentive for vaccine-hesitant people to obtain vaccinations.

Some statewide mask requirements may stay in place in specialized settings following federal guidance, including airports, public transit, and health care settings. The governor’s recovery order will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2021, unless terminated earlier.

Also on Friday, the World Health Organization urged people who are fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks and social distancing to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant, which is causing surges in several countries with high vaccination rates, and is spreading in the United States.

Two doses of Messenger RNA vaccine have been shown to offer significant effectiveness against the Delta variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, one dose provides only about 33% efficacy, according to Professor Brett Tyler, director of OSU’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing.

“Right now, Oregon is looking pretty good but we can’t rest on our laurels; we have to push through it and get the second vaccinations if they haven’t had them yet; those who haven’t been vaccinated should really, really get vaccinated,” Tyler told journalists last week.

According to the CDC, just 46.3% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNN recently that he expects to see “very dense” outbreaks of the more transmissible and dangerous Delta variant in areas of the country with low vaccination rates, particularly Southern or rural areas. Hospitalizations are rising in some states.

In Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly report issued June 23 said that cases decreased by 4.7% for the week of June 13-19, and the positive test rate dropped to 3.3%. Deaths also decreased, but hospitalizations increased.

The number of outbreaks at workplaces, long-term care facilities and childcare businesses has also decreased.

It reported an ongoing outbreak at the Sheridan federal prison that began on June 3, and saw its most recent onset on June 7, which has resulted in 30 cases.

The list of schools with recent cases includes Newberg High School, where three students have been affected, with the most recent outbreak on June 9; Mountain View Middle School in Newberg, where one student was affected on June 8; Edwards Elementary School in Newberg, where three students have been affected, the most recent on June 7; Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg, where one student was affected June 4; Dundee Elementary School, where two students have been affected, the most recent on June 3; McMinnville High School, where two students have been affected, the most recent on June 3; Duniway Middle School in McMinnville, where four students have been affected, the most recent on June 1; Grandhaven Elementary School in McMinnville, where four students and one staff member or volunteer have been affected, the most recent on May 31, and Joan Austin Elementary in Newberg, where two students were affected, the most recent on May 29.

As of Monday, Yamhill County reports 10 new cases, for a total of 4,807, and 79 deaths.

Among people 16 and older, 59.3% of people have had at least one vaccination shot, as of June 27.

Brown pledged that vaccination efforts would continue.

“We must recognize that it has been exceptionally difficult for our Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities. Disparities that existed before are even wider now. I am incredibly proud of the work that our local health partners and community-based organizations have done to reach Oregonians from communities of color and make progress toward closing the equity gaps in our vaccination efforts,” she said. Yamhill County had not updated its daily COVID-19 data page by press time, but according to the OHA, there were seven new cases in the county over the weekend, bringing it to a total of 4,804 to date — not including any new cases from Monday — and 79 deaths.

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