Dec 11, 2020
Oregon Governor Kate Brown COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 11
Oregon Governor Kate Brown gave a COVID-19 press conference on December 11. Read the full coronavirus news briefing speech here.
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Governor Kate Brown: (02:59)
Good morning. Thank you so much for joining us here today. I’m here to give an update on COVID-19 and I’m joined virtually by Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our State Epidemiologist, and Dara Isaacson, a special guest joining us today. Dara was diagnosed with COVID-19 several months ago, and unfortunately is still experiencing chronic symptoms. She’s here today to share her story with us. With our first positive test on February 28th, Oregon had the second case in the nation of COVID-19 not connected to travel or other known cases. Despite having one of the earliest outbreaks and even with a dire challenge of the recent national surge, Oregon has the fifth lowest COVID-19 case rate in the nation. I know this is in large part due to the tremendous efforts of Oregonians who continue to take actions to stop the spread of the virus. Yes, we’ve done relatively well compared to the nation as a whole. Unfortunately, as of today, more than 1,120 Oregonians have lost their lives to COVID-19. I don’t want to lose one more.
Governor Kate Brown: (04:27)
I know that Oregonians have sacrificed a lot, but we cannot sustain these sacrifices forever. That’s why we’re planning to do everything we can as we gear up for the vaccine campaign of our lifetimes, including distributing adequate supplies of vaccines to Oregon communities as quickly as possible, prioritizing our vaccine distribution among the hardest hit and most at risk. We will decide our priorities using an equity lens with input from a diverse range of community voices so we have the full buy-in from communities who, despite having endured the worst health and economic effects of the pandemic, have historical reasons to be wary of public agencies and the established healthcare system. And we will be launching an intensive and culturally responsive outreach effort to build trust and confidence in the vaccines, especially among communities of color and other vaccine hesitant communities so that we can achieve a vaccination rate that gives us the critical mass of immunity we need to eliminate it to eliminate COVID-19 in Oregon.
Governor Kate Brown: (05:54)
By the end of December, Oregon expects to receive 147,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Oregon is a national leader in rapid statewide distribution of vaccines against vaccine preventable diseases, such as influenza, measles, mumps, and rubella. We have a proven, efficient, and reliable system for distributing vaccines through a broad network of healthcare providers, health systems, local public health programs, our tribes, and community non-profits. With 94% healthcare coverage rate and 1.4 million members of the Oregon Health Plan enrolled in our innovative, cost-saving, and primary care focused, coordinated care organizations, we have the policies and programs in place to vaccinate all Oregonians. And we’re pulling every single one of those levers. State health officials have been enrolling vaccine provider sites in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program so that we can begin allocating doses of the vaccine to those locations within hours and days after they arrive in Oregon. Our hospitals will be the primary sites for immunization of the first group of vaccine recipients.
Governor Kate Brown: (07:25)
State health officials have set up a statewide cold chain network of locations that can provide ultra cold storage for the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at about 94 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s really cold. We estimate that approximately 100,000 Oregonians will receive their first vaccine doses by the end of the year. With 300,000 case healthcare workers in the state, the first doses will be prioritized for staff who work at hospitals and other inpatient facilities and have direct patient contact, especially with our COVID-19 patients. That will include people in vital roles like housekeeping and food services. We’ll then expand to outpatient and other settings, including behavioral health programs and facilities that meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We believe that prioritizing all health care staff in patient facing roles, not just our medical professionals, is a necessary first step and rectifying some of the health and social inequities of the pandemic.
Governor Kate Brown: (08:51)
We think this step will also help slow community spread, especially among communities of color who compromise a disproportionate share of the workforce among nonmedical staff in hospitals and at our nursing homes. Next, we need to vaccinate essential workers. As you know, states are responsible for making difficult decisions about how we prioritize the heroes who kept us going throughout the pandemic. The Oregon Health Authority has put equity at the center of our state’s COVID-19 response. Through OHA, we’ve funded more than 200 nonprofit community-based organizations to help with contact tracing, maintain housing, get meals to struggling families, and provide mental health support. We’ll draw on these relationships along with our connections to other stakeholders, to convene a vaccine advisory council that will inform the way we prioritize people working in essential worker roles. More to come on that soon.
Governor Kate Brown: (10:07)
We also believe authentic and equitable community engagement is vital to achieving community immunity in Oregon. If our communities don’t have a voice in deciding who gets a vaccine and when, state health officials won’t be able to win the trust and confidence of people our healthcare system has failed to serve well and we’ll continue to see unacceptable health disparities and low vaccination rates across the state. You’ve heard this before, but I’ll say it again, the vaccines won’t save us from the pandemic, vaccinations will. In a September survey, only four in 10 Oregonians said they would be certain to get a COVID-19 vaccine. So we certainly have our work cut out for us, especially in an environment poisoned by the current administration’s polarization and politicization of the pandemic response. As we wait for wide distribution of vaccines, one of our most important challenges is to remind Oregonians to keep up your guard. We need you all to keep wearing masks, limiting get togethers, and maintaining social distance until we achieve community immunity.
Governor Kate Brown: (11:32)
Thank you. Thank you for your actions so far, and thank you in advance for continuing them over the holidays and in the difficult months ahead. This vaccine arrives in the throes of a raging pandemic that our current administration has done as much to aggravate as mitigate. States are doing what we can, but a competent federal partnership has been missing. Oregonians are hurting. We need federal support to keep Oregonians in their homes and keep our businesses across the state operating. It’s absolutely true that we’re all in this together, but the impact of COVID-19 hasn’t been borne equally or equitably. We’re all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat. In Oregon, we will need to vaccinate more than 10,000 people per day to immunize three million Oregonians or about three-quarters of our state. That’s the scale we need to achieve community wide immunity. It’s a tall order, and we can’t do it without federal resources to deliver the doses and support our distribution and outreach efforts.
Governor Kate Brown: (12:56)
And until we can reach those coveted levels of immunity, we must all stay the course and continue to practice the safety measures we know can make an impact and stop the spread of the virus. I am so very grateful to the majority of Oregonians who are following the recommendations of our public health experts by physically distancing, wearing a mask, and limiting gatherings. Still, there are some who feel they are invisible to the virus, that they can’t get it or they can’t spread it. And when they don’t follow public health measures, their actions put all of us at risk. Data shows that more than half of Oregon’s cases are among people under 40. So it’s not just the elderly that get this virus. Unfortunately, a lot of young people are at serious risk, and just because you’re young doesn’t mean you automatically can survive the virus or escape with few symptoms.
Governor Kate Brown: (14:01)
I want to introduce you to a brave young woman, Dara, who’s here with us today to share her experiences with COVID-19. Speaking to Dara, what really left an impression on me is not only that she’s been suffering from the effects of COVID-19 for months, but also how difficult it has been on her family, including her five-year-old daughter. I’m going to let her tell you more. Dara, the mic is yours.
Dara Isaacson: (14:36)
Thank you, Governor, and thank you for what you’re doing to help protect Oregonians and save lives. And thank you for letting me share my story today, and I’ll try and get through it without breaking down. My name is Dara Isaacson. I’m a native Oregonian. I grew up in Gales Creek, right outside of Forest Grove. Went to SOU, worked at Crater Lake. Currently live in Southeast Portland with my husband, Ben, my five-year-old daughter Bailey and our dog, Luna. This year, I got COVID for my birthday. I turned 40 on March 2nd and unfortunately was unable to celebrate or enjoy my mom’s cheesecake she had made for me because I was in bed with a racking cough, terrible body aches, unrelenting headache, 102.7 fever, and extreme fatigue. I actually don’t remember many of the days I was initially sick. Little did I know I would still be sick almost 10 months later, and with more symptoms than my initial infection. I’m a COVID long hauler, and there are thousands of us across the country dealing-
Dara Isaacson: (16:03)
There are thousands of us across the country dealing with debilitating long-term chronic possibly lifelong symptoms due to COVID. Many of those long-haulers like myself were very active, healthy, no underlying health conditions, working out, taking care of the kids, getting things done. My family loves to hike and bike and camp and canoe, and we didn’t do any of that this summer because I can barely walk around the block now 10 months after my initial infection.
Dara Isaacson: (16:47)
I know many people, especially younger people, feel that this virus is not a threat to them or that the risk of catching it is low. Many think it’s not worth the precautions, the masking, the distancing, the social isolation that some of this has caused. Some people think that this is just like the flu.
Dara Isaacson: (17:14)
I can tell you from personal and horrible experience that that way of thinking is extremely dangerous. This is an unpredictable and terrifying disease. It’s been almost 10 months after I first contracted the virus. I’m still alive, thankfully, but my life has been completely turned upside down. I still have a wide range of symptoms affecting my heart, my lungs, and even my brain. I’ve been to the ER three times since June. Prior to that, I had never been to the ER in my life.
Dara Isaacson: (17:52)
There are nights where I wake up gasping for air. On a bad day, I have such bad muscle tremors and muscle weakness that I can’t hold a computer mouse. There are times I cannot stand up long enough to take a shower. I’ve lost 20 pounds over the course of this, unintentionally, and I don’t have the strength to gain them back. On really bad days, I’m bedridden, and I’ve essentially been housebound, not because of the restrictions put in place, but because of this illness for nine and a half months.
Dara Isaacson: (18:35)
I haven’t been able to work for months, and many of the things I love to do, reading, biking, hiking, are off the table. There will be no skiing this winter for me and my family. It’s hard to lose some of those things you love. I think the hardest part though is the effect that this has had on my family, especially the relationship with my five-year-old daughter. I can’t play with her anymore. I can’t go out on adventures with her. She now has my husband take pictures or videos when they go for a hike or take the dog out of what she’s doing so she can bring them home and show them to me because I can’t be a part of it anymore. A few months ago, she told me, “I wish you were like a real mommy,” and that was truly heartbreaking. It still brings me to tears every time I think about it.
Dara Isaacson: (19:39)
Now, I realize how hard this has all been for all of us for so many reasons, especially the lack of social connection, and I know how hard it is to be away from family, especially during the holidays. This is the first Thanksgiving we haven’t had my mother-in-law here in six years. It’s exhausting to be vigilant about mask wearing and keeping your distance and sanitizing your hands or even your groceries, but I can tell you that the alternative is way more exhausting.
Dara Isaacson: (20:17)
I realized that most of us don’t like to be told what to do, especially when we feel that we’re not necessarily part of the problem, but I believe that now all of us have the opportunity to come together to be part of the solution. Oregonians look out after one another. It’s one thing I love out of many about this state. During the wildfires this summer, neighbors came together and bonded and helped people with the wildfire response. They stepped up. They didn’t think twice. Now we need to step up again to protect one another from this devastating virus. This is not the time for blame or arguments. This is the time to make some sacrifices so that we can come together and keep this virus from harming anymore families like mine. Thank you very much.
Governor Kate Brown: (21:19)
Thank you, Darrah. Thank you for sharing your story. We wish you the best, and please give your family virtual hugs from all of us. With that, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Dean Sidelinger to give us an update.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (21:39)
Thank you, Governor Brown. I’m Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer and epidemiologist. Thank you, Darrah, for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you and your family, and I hope that as we learn more about COVID-19, we find ways to help you recover to get back to the things that you love.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (22:00)
I’d like to start out today by acknowledging everyone who is suffering from the impacts of COVID-19, both the illness itself and the secondary impacts from the virus. You may be someone like Darrah who’s battling COVID-19. You may be someone who’s lost a loved one or a friend. You may be someone who’s lost a job, or you’re struggling to keep your home, or maybe you’re someone whose life has been disrupted and devastated in all these ways by COVID-19 because I know that’s a hard reality for many Oregonians, especially in communities of color. Every one of us misses the human fabric of daily connection that the virus has strained: a friend’s casual hug, celebrating a wedding or a birthday together, holding the hand of an elderly relative.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (22:55)
Here’s an update on the status of that pandemic in Oregon. Our situation remains precarious and concerning, but there’s evidence that the productive measures Governor Brown has taken in recent weeks backed by the actions of Oregonians may have blunted the current surge. As the governor discussed, safe and effective vaccines are coming to Oregon.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (23:19)
First, the bad news. We continue to set records for new cases in Oregon. Last week, we surpassed 10,000 cases in a single week. As of today, 30 of the states, 36 counties are considered at either extreme or high risk based on case counts and test positivity showing widespread disease in their communities. Today, we’ll cross the threshold of 90,000 cases by adding 1,611 new diagnosed and presumed cases. Worse, and tragically, we’re also experiencing record deaths associated with COVID-19. Last Friday, we surpassed a thousand deaths since the start of the pandemic at Oregon, and on Tuesday, we surpassed 1,100. As of today, the statewide COVID-19 associated death toll is 1,138.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (24:16)
I don’t want to stop and reflect on what these losses mean. Each death marks the anguish end of a lost battle against the virus. Each death leaves a hole in someone’s life. Each death cuts short love, laughter, and memories for families and friends, and each death means a neighbor, a fellow Oregonian to not be here to ring in the new year with the rest of us. Every single COVID-19 death is avoidable. That’s why Governor Brown has taken action. That’s why we come to talk to you each week.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (24:53)
Now let me turn to another troubling indicator: We’re also seeing record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations. We currently have 576 hospitalized patients with positive COVID-19 tests in Oregon, and as of yesterday, 127 people in intensive care with COVID-19. The upward trend is extremely worrisome. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is up 70% since mid-November. All but one of our seven hospital regions has experienced a surge in bed demand. Many hospitals have eliminated or dramatically scaled back elective medical procedures to free beds and staff for the deluge of COVID-19 infected patients. This delay, it delays needed care that Oregonians deserve. The rise in daily cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are consistent with our recent modeling, which showed that the virus is spreading exponentially among us. That’s the bad news.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (25:59)
But there is good news. We haven’t observed a marked increase in the cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. Our cases are still rising on average, but there’s evidence they’re not rising as steeply. Over the past week, Oregon has had one of the lowest case rates in the country according to the CDC. If our rising cases begin to abate, we may be able to stave off the worst-case scenario our recent model forecasted.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (26:26)
I’d like to thank you, Oregonians, for the changes and the sacrifices you’ve all made. We saw a decrease in people’s movement before Thanksgiving. A national survey showed Oregon at a high percentage of people who reported you were going to spend the holiday with only members of your own household. These decisions, hard as they were, likely slowed the increase in cases. We’re not yet seeing the rapid rise in cases we feared, and that’s good news. It’s a welcomed departure from case spikes of previous holidays. This could still happen, and we need everyone to consider the risks of the actions they’re taking and to reduce your risk as much as you can. Most important, it’s a direct result of the decision the majority of Oregonians made around the Thanksgiving holiday. If we can avert worsening this crisis, it will be the result of the simple but serious and lifesaving steps every Oregonians take every day. Wear a mask. Avoid large get-togethers. Keep your distance. Wash your hands, and observe the social distancing protections in place in your county.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (27:40)
Here’s some more good news. Our colleagues in the Oregon Department of Human Services are expanding their network of COVID-19 recovery units to seven long-term care facilities statewide. In total, we will add more than 200 beds at facilities in Bend, Medford, Portland, Roseburg, Salem, and other communities. These dedicated units give the state more flexibility in responding to COVID-19 outbreaks and long-term care facilities. Just as significantly, they will help ease demand for hospital beds statewide. All these steps mean that we still have an opportunity to bend the case curve down again, avert our worst fears, and spare hospitals from being overwhelmed so that all Oregonians have access to the high quality care we deserve.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (28:31)
Once more, I want to thank you, fellow Oregonians, for the hard work you’ve done to protect yourselves and your family and your neighbors, and I need to ask you to keep up your guard, especially now that we expect vaccines to arrive in Oregon next week. Last week, public health director banks, OHA Director Allen and Governor Brown, all accepted the challenge to take the vaccine when it becomes available and when their turn comes to take it. I too want to accept that challenge, and I will take the vaccine as soon as it’s my turn whenever that time comes.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (29:05)
In the coming months, many of you also have a chance to save and sustain lives by taking the vaccine when it becomes available. I want to encourage you to take it as soon as you can. In turn, OHA will provide accurate, transparent information about every aspect of the vaccine from continuing to follow the safety and efficacy to how we’re prioritizing who can get the vaccines and how we’re distributing them across the state. With that, I’d like to turn things back over to Governor Brown.
Governor Kate Brown: (29:39)
Thank you, Dr. Sidelinger. We’re ready for questions, Charles, so I’m going to turn the mic back over to you.
Thanks, governor. For the reporters on the line, just a quick reminder, please use the participants tab and click on the “raise your hand” function to get in line to ask a question. We’re going to start out with Aimee Green from The Oregonian. Go ahead, Aimee.
Aimee Green: (30:03)
Okay. Sorry about that. I think you can hear me now.
Yes, go ahead.
Aimee Green: (30:07)
Okay, great. Can you give us a timeline, as detailed as possible, of who will get vaccinated when, by what month will all Oregon healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents be vaccinated, who will essential workers be, and how soon will they be vaccinated, and how about the general population? If you could use months, what month, if you have any idea, that would be great.
Governor Kate Brown: (30:33)
Aimee, this is Governor Brown. I’ll just say the first traunch of folks that are getting vaccinated are roughly the 360,000 healthcare workers. It includes, of course, our staff at our long-term care facilities and the residences as well. The only commitment that we have as of today is the 147,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. We have no further commitments of deliveries from the federal government. In terms of the timeframe, we’re going to need to vaccinate roughly 10,000 Oregonians a day, and it will take us most of the year to do that. Obviously, we’re going to have to increase those efforts. We’d like to get Oregon open as quickly as possible. I’ll let Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger fill in with more details.
Patrick Allen: (31:31)
Yeah, thanks, Governor Brown. Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. Aimee, I think the challenge, as Governor Brown indicates, is we’ve been given no kind of a distribution schedule or any idea of how many doses to expect on any kind of a regular basis, and so it’s really impossible for us to put a specific timeline on that. The federal government has said enough doses will come out to be able to vaccinate everybody who wants to be vaccinated up by June, but we’ve also seen stories about production disruptions at Pfizer and other things-
Patrick Allen: (32:03)
But we’ve also seen stories about production disruptions at Pfizer and other things. So until we actually see, I think, vaccines show up on the loading dock, I would not want to try to make a prediction of how long it’s going to take.
Aimee Green: (32:15)
How about essential workers? Can you give me any idea of who might be an essential worker?
Patrick Allen: (32:21)
Governor Kate Brown: (32:22)
Go ahead, Pat.
Patrick Allen: (32:23)
Sorry, go ahead.
Governor Kate Brown: (32:24)
It’s fine, Pat. Go ahead.
Patrick Allen: (32:25)
Okay. Essential workers under the federal definition is really quite broad and includes things that we have and things that we don’t have in Oregon. So transit workers to nuclear power plant operators, and all kinds of other categories. We’re assembling an advisory committee that’s going to help us work on prioritizing that very large category to make some decisions about how long it will take us to get through that population, but we’re not ready to be able to share any details, as we said, today.
Aimee Green: (32:57)
Thanks, Aimee. We’re going to go next to Sarah Hurwitz with KPTV. Go ahead, Sarah.
Sarah Hurwitz: (33:10)
Thank you. So I know that there was quite a bit of focus on the number of people who are under 40 who have now tested positive for COVID in our state. It sounds just like you guys are saying that there’s not a real timeline, you’re not given a lot of information about the distribution schedule of the vaccine. So what advice would you give to people in that age category who are likely going to be folks who would not be getting the vaccine anytime soon.
Governor Kate Brown: (33:42)
Sarah, it’s the same advice that I would give to Oregonians across the state, that until you are actually vaccinated twice, you are not protected, and it’s incredibly important that you wear your face covering, that you maintain, you watch your physical distance, that you wash your hands, that you get your flu shot, and also, importantly, that you stay home if you’re not feeling good.
Governor Kate Brown: (34:12)
I just have to say to Darrah, who shared her really challenging story of her impacts that COVID-19 had on her life, that this can happen to anyone, and until you are vaccinated twice with the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine, you are not protected.
Patrick Allen: (34:34)
Governor, could I add to that quickly?
Governor Kate Brown: (34:35)
Sure. Of course.
Patrick Allen: (34:37)
I’ve had friends share with me videos and stories and things of kind of off the grid parties and music performances and things like that, and even fairly benign sounding things like watch parties for sports events or those sorts of things, and I think Darrah’s story really clearly illustrates that you’re putting yourself at risk when you that, but you’re really putting your entire community at risk when you do that.
Patrick Allen: (35:02)
So I think the two things, as the Governor says, are take the precautionary steps we all know about, about hand-washing and mask wearing and staying distant, and really try hard to resist the temptation to do those kinds of activities. We have vaccines now beginning to be approved and arrive and so this isn’t going to be forever. It’s going to be for a while until we can get back to doing those things we all enjoyed doing, but please get in the game with everybody and take those steps.
Governor Kate Brown: (35:33)
Thank you, Director Allen.
Sarah Hurwitz: (35:35)
One follow-up to that. Are there any indicators why there’s such a large portion of Oregonians who are younger than 40 that are testing positive for the virus?
Governor Kate Brown: (35:47)
Director Allen, back to you.
Patrick Allen: (35:49)
I’ll actually put that to Dr. Sidelinger.
Governor Kate Brown: (35:51)
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (35:53)
Yeah, thank you for that question. I think what we know is that people under 40, so we’ve seen the highest cases in people in their twenties and thirties, but if you look at that continues into the forties and fifties. These are people who are in the workforce, many of whom have continued to work from the time this pandemic started, whether they were healthcare workers, childcare workers, transit workers, the people who sold us our food, who picked our food. So we do see adults, primary working age, being significantly impacted. They’ve been out in the community.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (36:27)
We do know that social gatherings have played a role in certain people. Certainly no age is exempt from that, but some of our younger adults certainly have had social gatherings and have felt invincible during this pandemic. That’s kind of a normal part of being a young adult.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (36:45)
But everyone is at risk, as you’ve heard. As the virus is spread more through our community, all activities when we go outside our home, particularly when we’re not keeping our distance and wearing our masks, can put us at risk and put our loved ones at risk when we return.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (36:59)
So I think that people in their forties and under are overrepresented not necessarily because of choices they made, but because of their jobs and their exposures. That’s why we all have to continue to work together to take these steps through the winter and spring to get into the summer when we anticipate we’ll have significant vaccines in Oregon and can start to return to some of our normal activities and enjoy the beautiful Oregon summer of 2021.
Governor Kate Brown: (37:26)
Sarah, I’ll just say, I know this has been really hard, not only for Oregonians under 40, but for all of us. We all miss seeing our loved ones. We miss hanging out with our friends. I should say most of us, those of us who are extroverts, miss that.
Governor Kate Brown: (37:46)
It’s fundamentally changed my job. I so enjoyed having third and fourth graders coming to the ceremonial office. I would on the floor with them and talk about their favorite foods and their favorite colors and what is the state tree of Oregon and what’s the state beverage. I miss all that.
Governor Kate Brown: (38:09)
Oregonians have truly made tremendous sacrifices. As Dr. Dean Sidelinger mentioned, as I mentioned, we have one of the lowest per capita rates of the infection in the entire country, so we have really stepped up.
Governor Kate Brown: (38:25)
The harsh reality is that I’m asking everyone to step up for a few more months. It might be most of the year. We don’t know yet. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel and I am hoping that we can celebrate next year’s holidays with our families and friends.
Sarah Hurwitz: (38:49)
Thank you so much.
Thanks, Sarah. We’ll go next to Genevieve Reaume with K2. Go ahead, Genevieve.
Genevieve Reaume: (39:02)
Good morning, Governor Brown. I’m sorry, are you guys able to hear me?
Yes, we can.
Governor Kate Brown: (39:05)
We can hear you just fine, Genevieve.
Genevieve Reaume: (39:08)
Awesome, thank you. I just want to, also, before I start, just extend my sympathies to Darrah. I’m so sorry for everything that you are going through. Thank you for sharing your story. I know that that was not easy.
Genevieve Reaume: (39:17)
Governor Brown, I’m going to switch topics a little bit here. I wanted to talk about the funding for restaurants and small businesses in Oregon in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. You recently pledged that you were giving $55 million to help restaurants. Multnomah County, specifically, is getting $7.6 million of that. But the way that that pans out, that boils down to just $1,500 per restaurant. I’ve had a restaurant owner tell me she wouldn’t even pick up $1,500 off the ground right now. It’s not a drop in the bucket for what they need.
Genevieve Reaume: (39:52)
How are you helping these small businesses through this financial difficulty?
Governor Kate Brown: (39:57)
That’s a really great question. Since the pandemic began, Oregon has invested over $150 million in our businesses across the state. These small businesses are truly the heart and soul of our economy. Many of us love shopping at our favorite boutique, going to our favorite restaurant, enjoying a glass of wine or a glass of beer at our favorite bar. So this has been extremely challenging for these businesses across the state.
Governor Kate Brown: (40:31)
So as I mentioned, we’ve invested over $150 million in assistance. We set up a business advocate at Business Oregon so that business owners could call to see how they could get financial assistance or other tools that might be useful. But the harsh reality is we absolutely must have additional federal assistance. I spoke with Democrats in the US Senate yesterday. I will tell you that governors, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, we all agree we need federal assistance.
Governor Kate Brown: (41:15)
In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program, which must be funded again, we need additional resources to help our schools, to help our communities survive this pandemic. Our tribes are struggling. We have nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon. They are struggling. They’ve had to shut down their gaming operations at times. They’ve had to shut down their businesses. They are struggling as well.
Governor Kate Brown: (41:45)
We need the federal government. We need Republicans and Democrats to put aside their politics and come together over a federal assistance package for the states, for our local communities, for our businesses, and most importantly, for Oregon families.
Genevieve Reaume: (42:05)
Thank you, Governor Brown. I have one quick follow-up to that. I had a business owner text me while we were on this call upset about the tax on liquor that is 50 cents per every bottle on top of all this pandemic. These business owners feel like they’re getting hit while they’re already down. Why are you taxing them additionally when they’re already struggling so much?
Governor Kate Brown: (42:27)
Look, I have asked everyone in my budget to give a little bit. This was not an easy budget. I wanted to make sure that we had the resources for core services for Oregonians, whether it was investing in housing or making sure that our families that are struggling, that their children had access to early childhood education.
Governor Kate Brown: (42:52)
I am asking our businesses, I am asking our healthcare providers, I am asking everyone to give a little bit. We are also taking a little bit from Oregon’s reserves to meet our needs, and, frankly, I am making cuts. I made some really difficult decisions, as I mentioned, in the rollout of my budget. We’ve cut over a hundred million dollars from our public safety sector in order to meet our budget needs.
Governor Kate Brown: (43:19)
The harsh reality is that we need additional assistance from the federal government and we need Congress and our president to do the right thing to help the American people now.
Genevieve Reaume: (43:31)
Thank you, Governor Brown.
Thanks, Genevieve. We’re going to go next to Gary Warner with EO Media. Go ahead, Gary.
Gary Warner: (43:42)
Yeah. Hi, Governor. Thank you for taking my questions. We’ve talked a lot about best case scenarios today. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be a deal in Washington over aid before the end of the year and the amount of vaccine that’s coming in is telling people that if they really want it, they’re not going to be able to get it until June or July, which means that potentially thousands more people will die and tens of thousands of people will be infected before this is over. Are those just cold realities that we have to face?
Governor Kate Brown: (44:25)
Well, Gary, I’m absolutely committed to putting a bridge package together, working with Republicans and Democrats in the Oregon Legislature to get some resources out to Oregonians. This would include financial assistance for Oregonians who are struggling to pay their rent or their mortgage. It would include assistance for landlords who are struggling as well. It would include additional financial assistance for our businesses, including technical assistance to help those businesses that are particularly struggling. Frankly, it would provide additional resources to our agencies like the Oregon Health Authority that are on the front lines of the pandemic.
Governor Kate Brown: (45:11)
Oregon is known for being creative and innovative, and I’m absolutely committed to working with folks across the aisle and around the state to do what we can to help struggling Oregonians, to help struggling businesses, and to make sure that we have the resources that we need to get us through these challenging times.
Governor Kate Brown: (45:37)
Just to give you a perspective, we’ve received roughly $5 million to help with our vaccine efforts from the federal government. I’m expecting a little bit more, but if you do the math, that’s basically a little over a dollar per Oregonian on what is truly a historic effort to ensure that we get the vast majority of Oregonians vaccinated and that we have community immunity.
Governor Kate Brown: (46:07)
So there’s absolutely no question, as I said earlier, the federal government needs to step up. But I am confident in Oregon that we will work to make sure that we have the resources and tools that we need to alleviate the suffering, to help vulnerable families, and to help our businesses survive.
Patrick Allen: (46:28)
Governor, could I add a bit to that?
Governor Kate Brown: (46:30)
Patrick Allen: (46:32)
Gary, you asked you if it’s a hard reality that maybe thousands may die in and tens of thousands become infected. I think there’s two ways to answer that question. One is, yeah, we can’t vaccinate everybody all at once given what we know about how vaccines are going to roll out. So it is a sad truth that there will be more infections and there will be more deaths. But we together control how many that is, and we’ve already been doing that in Oregon. You’ve heard about low case rates and low fatality rates.
Patrick Allen: (47:07)
We’ve had, sadly, over 1100 people die in Oregon. If we had just the national median rate of death in Oregon, we would have had 2000 more people die. So Oregonians already have worked together to hold these numbers down and I think what we’re all really talking about is we just need to keep doing that.
Patrick Allen: (47:26)
Keep wearing masks, washing hands, making sure our gatherings are small, and we can make sure that that hard reality of more cases and more deaths is the very fewest number of people it needs to be until we’re able to have people widely vaccinated.
Governor Kate Brown: (47:41)
Thank you, Director Allen. Thank you, Gary. Back to you, Charles.
Thanks, Governor. We’ll go next to Lisa Balick with KOIN. Go ahead, Lisa.
Lisa Balick: (47:52)
Happy Friday. Governor, for months, Oregonians were asked to wear masks and finally you had to order them to do it. Now there are a significant number of people who are anti-vax.
Finally, you had to order them to do it. Now, there are a significant number of people are anti-vaccine in general in this state. Of course, there’s going to be role models and explanations, but how can you possibly get the population adequately vaccinated and you can’t mandate it?
Governor Kate Brown: (48:14)
Look, that’s a really good question. As I said, in my remarks, Oregon has an excellent vaccine distribution program and we’re working with all of our partners, including our hospitals, our pharmacies, and our healthcare providers across the state to bolster this effort. Oregon also is one of the states where we are challenged with the number of folks who are opposed to vaccinations, and we have one of the lowest child immunization rates in the country. I think there are a couple of strategies.
Governor Kate Brown: (48:55)
Number one, as we mentioned, we are working and establishing a Vaccine Advisory Committee. This would be a diverse group of Oregonians. I think it’s incredibly important that we have a diversity of voices at the table, to talk about who are going to be prioritized in terms of essential workers and others, as we get more vaccines in. As we include these voices in these conversations, which OHA has been working to do for the last several months, we can work with our community partners as well.
Governor Kate Brown: (49:34)
We’ve been working with over 200 community-based organizations on meeting Oregonians’ needs. Contact tracing, making sure that folks are quarantining and isolating when they test positive. The state can’t do that alone. We are blessed with these community partners that are really helping in this effort. So it’s going to take a coordinated and collective effort. It’s going to take all of us working together to educate and inform. We’re going to have a very aggressive communications effort, including working with three of Oregon’s creative and innovative communications companies, to make sure that we are getting the message out to Oregonians from different walks of life in a way that they will hear it, and it is culturally responsive. Director Alan, do you want to add anything?
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (50:33)
Can I add to that Governor?
Governor Kate Brown: (50:34)
Sure, Dr. Sidelinger, I picked the wrong one. Dr. Sidelinger, go ahead.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (50:37)
Okay. So yeah. Thank you for that question. And I think vaccine hesitancy or vaccine skepticism is a huge issue in Oregon as it is in many other states. And as a pediatrician, I’ve sat down and had the difficult conversation with many parents about vaccines. And I think the important thing to realize is to come to that conversation with an open mind. What is a parent concerned about? Why are they worried about the vaccine, and try and address those concerns and bring information that can help them make a decision to protect their child, to protect themselves. And each person is different.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (51:16)
And so in public health, we can provide some of the resources. As the governor stated, we will have some education and outreach campaign. We will work with specific communities, some of our communities of color and other minority communities that have higher levels of skepticism to try and provide them the information that they need.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (51:34)
But these conversations are going to happen in doctor’s offices, in vaccine clinics and other places, to try and address that. And let me just say that this vaccine so far is safe and effective. The Pfizer vaccine that we have the most data about and the data we’ve heard from the Moderna vaccine. And while it’s called Operation Warp Speed, people are concerned, “Well they rushed this vaccine out.” What our federal partners did, and the pharmaceutical companies did was cut corners that didn’t involve cutting safety or efficacy, or the studies that happened before this vaccine came out.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (52:08)
They followed the same processes of enrolling people to determine if the vaccine works, if the vaccine is safe and then enrolled tens of thousands of people to see how the vaccine performed in the real world. That research, that focus on safety and efficacy doesn’t end when the vaccine arrives here in Oregon and people start getting it.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (52:27)
We have multiple systems in place that will continue to monitor the safety of this vaccine, how well it’s working, if it’s working better in certain populations, and those will continue. And people who have side effects after the vaccine, we’ll be able to report those and we’ll be able to follow up on those. So I want to assure people that this vaccine is safe and effective as are other vaccines, and that we will be having these conversations in pediatrician’s offices and clinics and other vaccination locations with families, with parents, with adults who are worried about the vaccine, to try and find out what are their concerns and how can we address them, so that they can feel good about their decision to take this vaccine.
Governor Kate Brown: (53:08)
And Lisa, the bottom line is the challenge we have right now is that we have more people that want to take vaccines than we actually have vaccines. So we’re incredibly hopeful that the federal government will continue distributing these as quickly as possible to states across the country.
Governor, just a quick question, that is germane to all this, but is there a point within the next two weeks, you’re going to decide whether to issue an executive order to extend the eviction moratorium in the state?
Governor Kate Brown: (53:44)
So I will just say, I know that there are thousands of families across the state that are struggling to pay their rent. I am very concerned. I believe strongly that every Oregonian deserves a warm, safe, dry, affordable, and accessible place to call home. I am working with legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle. I’m hopeful that we can reach a bipartisan solution on this issue. If not, I obviously have other tools available to me, including an executive order.
Thanks Lisa. We have time for just a few more questions so we’re going to go to Nicole Constantino with KOBI. Go ahead, Nicole.
Nicole Constatino: (54:31)
Hi. I was just wondering for the COVID treatment centers, what will that look like, and will those 200 beds be in each county listed that’s getting that funding?
Governor Kate Brown: (54:43)
Dr. Sidelinger, do you want to take that question please?
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (54:48)
Thank you. What we’ve done is work to increase the long-term care facility beds that are available for patients who have COVID-19, so that they can return to the level of care that they need, whether they’re being discharged from a hospital, or we have a facility that’s been impacted by COVID-19. We work to implement infection control activities in those facilities, but we know that we need places that are dedicated to providing them the care and the services they need without spreading it to those who don’t have COVID-19. So I mentioned that those facilities will be located in cities throughout the state, and that they can take individuals from across the region who need that place, to free up that bed in the hospital, by discharging an individual with COVID-19 to the lower level of care, the appropriate level of care they need.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (55:38)
We’ve had these beds in place since early on in the pandemic. And this announcement today from ODHS, the tremendous work they’ve done, our partners in the community who provide these services, means that we’ll have increased capacity to help meet the need that we see during the surge. This will help provide the services that those residents need, as well as to help protect the hospital capacity that we all may need if something terrible should happen.
Nicole Constatino: (56:05)
Thank you very much.
Thanks, Nicole. We have time for just one last question. So we’re going to go to Pat Dooris with KGW. Go ahead, Pat.
Pat Dooris: (56:15)
Well, thank you. So a logistics and rollout question. Governor, it sounds like you’re saying three million is the goal to get community immunity. Is that correct? And then if so, if we’re doing 10,000 injections a day, it seems like that would be 300 days, so roughly 10 months. So should we in the public be thinking it’ll be September before there’s enough for real herd immunity?
Governor Kate Brown: (56:44)
As I said earlier, Pat, obviously we don’t know what the numbers of vaccines that we’re going to receive from the federal government beyond the 147,000 that have been committed to Oregon. What I have heard from the White House is that they have been very adamant that these vaccines are being distributed on a per capita basis. So Oregon will be getting its fair share. My understanding is that children are not eligible for the vaccine yet because it has not been tested on them. So obviously that’s a portion of our population, but I’ll turn it over to our state epidemiologist for the percentage of the population that we need to have vaccinated for community immunity.
Governor Kate Brown: (57:32)
But what I would say this, obviously, I’m very committed to making sure that we get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. I think we are all anxious to get back to our pre COVID lives, the opportunity to hang out with family and friends, the opportunity to see our loved ones. And we’re going to work as quickly as possible to make that happen. But again, we don’t have beyond the December allocation, any commitment from our federal government. Dr. Sidelinger, I’m going to turn it over to you to talk about community immunity.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (58:12)
Thank you, Governor Brown. And thank you Pat, for that question. I think, as a novel virus, there are things we know about the spread of this disease and things we don’t. So let me start with what we know about the vaccine that’s coming. We know that it’s safe and we know that it works to prevent disease and to prevent serious disease in individuals. What we anticipate is that it likely will limit their ability to transmit the virus to others, even if they’re infected and don’t have symptoms, but we’ll continue to study that to see if that’s true. So some of these unknowns play into our estimates about how many people, what percentage of the population we would need to vaccinate, to achieve this community immunity. What we think based on how its spread, how it’s behaved so far during the past 10 months, is that we will need to have about 70% of the population vaccinated in order to achieve this kind of community immunity, where we may be able to back down additional measures just based on vaccination status alone.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (59:13)
But I want to reiterate something that Director Alan said earlier. We’re not going to sit around and wait until the vaccine comes until we achieve that 70% number to kind of back down on our activities, to kind of open up the economy again. We’re going to do that based on the actions that we all take. Are we wearing our masks, limiting our social gatherings, washing our hands and doing other things, making sacrifices to prevent the spread to our neighbors, to our loved ones and family? As we do that, we’ve driven the case rates down before I think we’ll do it again. And by doing that, we can get our case rates down while we’re still waiting for the vaccine to come. We can potentially add more activities where people can enjoy going indoors for a drink with friends or a meal at lower risks, that we can’t do now across those counties in extreme risks that have the highest levels of COVID.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (01:00:09)
We can do that during the winter, when we’re indoors more. We can sit on our patios and meet with our friends, physically distance in small groups with our masks on. And then in the summer and spring, when the weather gets better, we can go out for a hike and hang out in the park with them. So we have the power in our hands to try and drive the rates down, before we get to that 70% number, and that 70% number may come sooner or later, but a lot of that depends on the vaccine supply and how it comes in. But coming together, taking these other actions, and getting the vaccine when it’s your turn, are some of the things that we can all do.
Thanks Pat. That’s all the time we have for questions today, everyone. Thank you.
Governor Kate Brown: (01:00:54)
Thank you, Charles. I just want to close out by saying thank you to Dara for having the courage to share your story. To Dara and frankly, all the other COVID long haulers, I’m sorry for your pain. And I so wish you the best and to all Oregonians, please stay safe out there. Take good care.