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Oregon to reopen by no later than June 30

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at an April 9 mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Portland. On Thursday, the governor extended Oregon's pandemic emergency declaration.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff/ OPB
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at an April 9 mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Portland. On Thursday, the governor extended Oregon's pandemic emergency declaration.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pledged Friday to reopen the state by no later than June 30 — ahead of the 4th of July Holiday. When the state is reopened, decisions about masks and social distancing restrictions will be made at the county level. Counties will also be responsible for case investigations and contact tracing.

The Oregon Health Authority will continue to provide support to counties by collecting and reporting data, keeping an eye on variants, administering testing, supporting vaccination efforts, and providing back-up case investigation and contact tracing.

Previously, Brown and the Oregon Health Authority set June 21 as a target date for reopening, based on the speed of vaccinations at the time. But Oregon has exhausted its supply of adults eager to be vaccinated, and the number of vaccines administered each day has slowly declined.

Watch the governor’s briefing, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Friday:

Brown originally pledged to reopen the entire state once 70% of Oregonians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. She also said she was looking forward to a totally open Fourth of July weekend. According to the Oregon Health Authority, over the last week, an average of 9,620 first doses were given each day.

The state is still inching toward that metric, with 35,290 shots left to go until Oregon hits the target the governor set. If the daily vaccination rate continues, Oregon should reach 70% by July 1.

Individual counties are allowed to reopen once 65% of residents age 16 and older have received their first dose. But vaccination rates vary widely across the state, and, while some counties passed that goal weeks ago, others, like Lake, Malheur and Umatilla counties, have given first doses to fewer than 40% of those 16 and older, not including doses provided by the federal government.

National health officials have raised concerns that pockets of unvaccinated people will allow the virus to persist and continue to mutate, increasing the risk of new variants arising. Meanwhile, the federal government has issued an alert about the delta variant of COVID-19, which originated in India and is present in Oregon. In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the delta variant the “greatest threat” the U.S. is facing while trying to eliminate COVID-19.

The delta variant is more contagious, and is more likely to make people ill if they have not completed their full vaccination schedule. It is also more likely to cause breakthrough infections in fully-vaccinated people, but a full course of COVID-19 vaccines provides strong protection against severe illness requiring hospitalization.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Erin Ross