May 11, 2021
Oregon Governor Kate Brown COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 11
Oregon Governor Kate Brown gave a COVID-19 press conference on May 11, 2021. She announced that the economy will begin to fully reopen when 70% of Oregon residents are at least partially vaccinated. Read the full coronavirus news briefing speech here.
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Gov. Kate Brown: (03:32)
Good afternoon. We’re here to give an update on COVID-19 in Oregon. I’m joined by Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologists and Rachael Banks, our state director of public health. I want to start with some promising news. Thanks to you, Oregon, it looks like we’ve crossed the tipping point of the fore surge. Our hospitalization rates have stabilized, our infection rates are on a downward trajectory, and in the race between vaccines and variants, our efforts to vaccinate Oregonians are taking the lead. With daily vaccination rates recently averaging over 34,000 per day, we are certainly making headway against this virus. While we know that daily vaccination rate may slowly decline in the coming weeks, this week, we will celebrate that 2 million Oregonians have received a first dose. More than half of our adult population. I’m incredibly pleased that we’ve made this progress.
Gov. Kate Brown: (04:44)
It brings us to a pivotal moment we’ve all been waiting for. We can truly begin taking steps forward and into the next chapter of post pandemic life. As I announced last month, our goal here in Oregon is to vaccinate a significant majority of Oregonians so we can more fully reopen our economy. Today, I’m setting a specific target for us to reach, 70%. That’s the number of Oregonians aged 16 and older that we need to reach with the first dose. Once we cross that state-wide goal, yes, that means no more county risk levels and a lifting of most restrictions, including capacity limits for venues and businesses and limits on group sizes. Common sense safety measures like wearing masks and physical distancing may remain in effect in line with CDC guidance. We will continue to evaluate CDC’s recommendations on these measures and align them with Oregon’s needs.
Gov. Kate Brown: (05:59)
Public health will remain focused on testing, contact tracing, and continuing to monitor hospital admissions so we can do this safely. We still have some work to do to reach our 70% goal, but I’m confident we can get there in June and return Oregon to a sense of normalicy. We will also continue our pursuit of closing the equity gap in our vaccination efforts. This will remain a priority and a focus as we shift strategies from primarily mass vaccination sites to smaller sites located in our communities. So Oregon, this is our goal. We each play a part. If you’ve already been vaccinated, thank you. Now, help a friend, family member or neighbor make an appointment. Spread the word that folks can call 211 or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov for more information. Walk-in appointments are available in many pharmacies and locations across the state. We know that not every Oregonian has easy access to a vaccine.
Gov. Kate Brown: (07:17)
So if you’re able to help someone who may have a harder time making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site, please do so. Let’s keep our eye on that goal, 70%, June. I don’t know about you, but thinking about summer and life post pandemic sure is motivating. As we work towards a statewide vaccination goal of 70%, we’re also going to be setting local targets for counties to work toward. If a county reaches 65% of their population, 16 and older, with the first dose and submits a plan to the Oregon Health Authority for how they’ll work toward closing the vaccine equity gap, they have the option to move into the lower risk category starting on May 21st. We’ll provide additional state resources to help achieve these goals with counties able to receive 50% of eligible funding as soon as possible and the remaining 50% upon making progress toward closing their equity gaps. We have some counties that have been leading the pack in their vaccination efforts and will be eligible as soon as next Friday to move to lower risk. Counties like Hood River and Washington County have done exceptional work to help close their vaccine equity gaps. In Washington County, strong partnerships with community-based organizations have brought 27 vaccination clinics to local churches, senior centers, the Muslim Educational Trust and near the sites of manufacturing and packing plants. These sites have delivered more than 11,000 doses to communities of color. Hood River has mobilized more than 600 local volunteers to assist with their vaccination efforts. The county has maintained accessible timely vaccine information through a call center that has both English and Spanish information lines.
Gov. Kate Brown: (09:35)
And they’ve ensured accessibility to open vaccine appointments by coordinating staggered times and dates for community clinics. These are just a couple of the great examples happening in every single corner of the state to vaccinate Oregonians. I’m really, really proud of these efforts and I want all of our counties to know that these goals I’ve set are attainable. This is good news. It means in the coming weeks, we will begin to see more of Oregon coming to life. Businesses will be able to open more fully. For counties able to move to lower risk, graduation ceremonies with up to 50% capacity will be a reality. It means we are making solid progress on the vaccination front and driving down our infection rates. It also means that we are taking tiny steps forward to move past this pandemic and onto the next critical area of focus and that’s economic recovery. I know we’re all ready to move Oregon forward. Let’s keep our eyes on that horizon and remember these next few weeks it’s all about vaccinations.
Gov. Kate Brown: (10:56)
Before I turn it over to Director Allen, I wanted to share my excitement over the news that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for youth ages 12 to 15. Vaccines are the strongest defense we have against COVID-19. And by getting vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourself, but your family, your friends and your neighbors. I know parents have a lot of questions, which is totally normal. I encourage parents to talk to their family healthcare provider or pharmacists to get their questions answered. We look forward to hearing from the CDC and our Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup on their recommendations for next steps later this week. And with that, over to you Director Allen.
Pat Allen: (11:45)
Thank you, Governor Brown. I’m Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority. This afternoon I want to share more about the vaccination targets Governor Brown announced and how we’re measuring them. I’ll tell you which counties are meeting or are close to meeting the targets we’ve set, and describe the steps that health authority and our local partners are taking to help counties reach those goals and safely reopen without leaving any communities behind. I’m joined by Rachael Banks, our public health director and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state health officer. They’ll be available to answer questions, including questions you may have about our county partnerships and the FDA’s decision to issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12 to 15.
Pat Allen: (12:29)
I want to underscore Governor Brown’s message, the county and statewide vaccination targets she announced today stand as a pivotal point in the pandemic. For the first time since COVID 19 reached Oregon, we’ll know when we can retire most of the restrictions we’ve had to rely on to protect us during the time we’ve been most vulnerable to this novel virus. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, we’ll have a clearer picture of how close we are to truly containing COVID-19 in Oregon. Every person who chooses to get vaccinated means the virus has fewer ways to spread and mount any more surges in hospitalizations and deaths and less chance to mutate in dangerous ways that could spiral us back into high risk. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, we’ll be able to say the virus no longer controls the timelines in our lives. We will, if enough Oregonians make the choice to get vaccinated.
Pat Allen: (13:24)
However, we can’t pretend the pandemic is over. By themselves, these COVID-19 vaccination targets don’t achieve herd immunity or starve the virus of any ways to spread. By tying vaccination rates to reductions in risk levels, these targets recognize the sacrifices Oregonians have made in achieving one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country. They reward the progress counties can make in their vaccination rates and they restore greater certainty to businesses that have been buffeted by each wave of COVID-19’s resurgence. At a time when vaccination rates are unfortunately slowing across the nation, can we reach these goals?
Pat Allen: (14:02)
… Slowing across the nation, can we reach these goals? Let’s go to the first slide, please. Let’s start by taking a look at where we stand right now. Overall, Oregon continues to sustain a greater rate of vaccination growth than most other states as we climb the national rankings. As of today, just under 2 million Oregonians have received at least one dose of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. According to the latest data, 1,994,968 Oregonians have received at least one shot. Overall, 1,490,512 Oregonians are fully vaccinated. Bring in to data from the CDC, 60% of Oregonians who are 18 or older ever received at least one vaccination. Oregon vaccinators have now administered at least one shot to 49% of our total population according to the CDC.
Pat Allen: (14:55)
Oregon now ranks 21st in the nation, including the District of Columbia, in the percentage of our total population who’ve received at least one dose. The national average is 46%. We ranked 24th in the nation in the percentage of our total population who are fully vaccinated. 36% of all Oregonians are fully vaccinated. Over the past week, our daily average of shots in arms remains above the rate of vaccines administered per day, that we will need to reach the targets governor Brown announced. To hit 70% of adult Oregonians vaccinated with at least one dose by the end of June, Oregon would need to administer 8,700 first doses per day over the next seven weeks. As of yesterday, we were averaging a total of 34,869 first and second doses each day.
Pat Allen: (15:45)
As we track Oregon’s vaccination targets going forward, here are a few reminders to note. We will use CDCs calculation of percentage of people who are 18 plus to track our progress toward our state-level target to vaccinate seven in 10 adult Oregonians as the marker to lift the risk metrics. We’ll use the CDC figures for two reasons. First, the CDC data offers a more comprehensive, complete and accurate picture of total vaccinations in Oregon because the federal data includes vaccinations administered by the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service and other federal entities. CDC data also enables us to compare our progress against the same goal The Biden Administration has set for the nation. As a side note, CDC includes everyone who is 16 and older in their 18 plus data.
Pat Allen: (16:34)
However, the CDC data is not reliable at the county level because it doesn’t have enough County of Residence information for people who are vaccinated through those federal entities. So for county vaccination rates, we’ll rely on Oregon’s alert immunization information system. But measuring our overall progress isn’t enough. We need to ensure that we’re closing the gap in vaccination rates across racial and ethnic demographics as we work to achieve parody in vaccination rates for communities of color. They’ve been hardest hit by the pandemic. Next slide, please. As this slide shows, vaccination in all the nonwhite categories except American Indians, Alaska Natives grew faster than the White population over the past 14 days.
Pat Allen: (17:19)
In the past two weeks, the number of people who are vaccinated, who identify as Latino or Latina grew out of a 24% growth rate. The number of people who were vaccinated and identify as Black grew at 23%. Both of those groups outpaced the number of people who are vaccinated and identify as White. That group grew at a 13% growth rate over that time. We still have a long way to go; however, it’s encouraging to see so many local partners working together to close the under-vaccination rate among communities of color. From the coast to rural and remote counties, community-based organizations, federally qualified health centers, local health departments and regional health systems are holding pop-up clinics, intensifying outreach and taking other steps to reach under-vaccinated communities. The numbers show it’s making a difference.
Pat Allen: (18:08)
I’ll talk more about how we’re holding counties accountable for continuing to close this gap in a moment. Now, let’s take a closer look at when and if we might be able to vaccinate 70% of adult Oregonians. Let’s go to the next slide, please. As this slide shows, our vaccination targets are in reach and it’s possible we can exit the statewide risk metrics before July 4th, even if we see a dip in our current vaccination rates. Based on our current trajectory, Oregon is currently on track to overshoot our target and actually vaccinate eight in 10 adults by mid to late June. That trajectory is shown by the bright green line on the top of the graph. However, while we’ve maintained a 3% week-over-week growth rate, we’ve seen our daily numbers of doses administered begin to slip slightly. So what if our current trajectory changes?
Pat Allen: (18:59)
If that slight weakening in our daily average turned into a 25% drop in our vaccination rate of growth, we’d still expect to have vaccinated 70% of adults by mid to late June. That trajectory is shown by the lighter green line. If the bottom fell out and our vaccination rate dropped by 50%, we’d still expect to have vaccinated 70% of adults before July 1st. That trajectory is shown by the red line. If we see what we believe is the most likely trend, vaccination slow by about 10% and plateau at that level, Oregon should still expect to have vaccinated seven in 10 adults around the third week in June, still about two weeks ahead of the federal target. That trajectory is shown by the yellow line. But what about the counties?
Pat Allen: (19:45)
How many counties can expect to reach 65% before summer? How many people does each county have to vaccinate to hit the level where they can drop to low risk or lift the risk metrics? Next slide, please. As you can see on this chart, two counties, Benton and Hood River have already vaccinated more than 65% of adult residents. They are ready to move to low risk on May 21st, unless they opt out or do not submit an equity plan. Four counties, Deschutes, Lincoln, Multnomah and Washington have vaccinated more than 60% of their adult population. They likely will reach 65% soon and should be ready to move to low risk by May 21st, unless they opt out or do not submit an equity plan. Five counties, Clackamas Clastop, Lane, Polk and Tillamook have vaccinated more than 55% of their adult population.
Pat Allen: (20:45)
If these counties maintain healthy week-over-week rates of growth in vaccinations, they should be eligible to move to low risk before the entire state reaches the target of vaccinating 70% of adults. When you look at these counties, they include rural and urban communities. They span the coast, the valley and the east side of the mountains. We know that the different points of view that characterize so much of the national discussion can get carried into issues at the state level, such as vaccinations. But these counties show that you can’t make assumptions about Oregonians and every county can protect its residents by hitting a high vaccination rate, no matter its geographic location or part as an orientation. What about the remaining counties? Well, other counties are further behind. Many have relatively small numbers to reach, to achieve that 65% target.
Pat Allen: (21:35)
For example, Umatilla County needs to reach fewer people to hit 65% than Clackamas or Lane Counties, even though Umatilla is much further behind as a percentage. So what are we going to do to help counties hit those targets and how will the Oregon Health Authority partner with counties to not only make sure they continue to expand vaccination rates, but also, achieve parody across all their racial and ethnic communities? Over the coming month, you’ll see a shift in focus away from mass vaccination clinics per the less centralized approach. The mass vaccination strategy was essential to quickly immunizing large numbers of people and managing the process of prioritizing limited eligibility when we had limited doses. I want to thank our health system partners for taking on this difficult task and operating these clinics with such impressive efficiency. We vaccinated 2 million people and outpaced most other states, thanks to their efforts. However, appointments at mass vaccination sites are starting to slow down. Now we need to transition to the next phase of the vaccination strategy, which is designed to better address the needs of people who have not yet chosen to get vaccinated. As the pace of vaccination has slackened across the nation, you hear a lot about people who are resistant to vaccinations, and won’t be convinced to get one. You hear a lot about people who are vaccine-hesitant. They’re wary or skeptical, have questions, but they still haven’t made up their minds. Then there are people, I think, who fit a different category. Let’s call them vaccine-inconvenient. People in this group aren’t opposed to getting a vaccine; they just haven’t yet prioritized taking the time out of their busy lives to do so. Our phase two strategy is designed to make it simpler and easier for vaccine-hesitant and vaccine-inconvenient people to get immunized.
Pat Allen: (23:23)
In coming weeks, we’ll continue to move doses to familiar places where people typically get a flu shot or other vaccinations such as outpatient clinics operated by a health system or an independent clinic or inpatient clinics at hospitals. We’ll also shift clinic locations from mass vaccination sites to smaller community-based sites, such as schools. We’ll work with county health officials and CVO partners to stand up more pop-up community-based vaccine events, we’ll work with our local partners to site clinics at other mid-sized closer-to-home and culturally-responsive locations in the community. Let’s go to the next slide, please. Finally, I want to talk about the way OHA will work with counties to ensure we close the vaccination gap for communities who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Governor Brown described, before our county can move to low risk, they will have to both vaccinate 65% of their population over 16 with at least a first dose and submit a plan that demonstrates that local public health officials are committed to working with community partners to maximize meaningful low barrier access historic to vaccines for historically marginalized communities and reduce vaccination inequities. The earliest a county may move to low-risk is May 21st. Any county that meets the vaccination rate target and opts to move to low-risk would need to submit their Vaccination Equity Plan by May 14th.
Pat Allen: (24:48)
Public health staff at OHA will review the plan for adequacy and completeness and have follow-up discussions with the County. Any movement in risk level would be announced on May 18th and the change in risk levels would take effect on May 21st. We’ll follow that weekly cycle going forward; however, we encourage all counties to submit their plans well in advance of the weeks they want to change risk levels. In reviewing county equity responses, OHA staff will look for plans to conduct effective outreach to those who have not been vaccinated. Steps counties are taking to ensure that vaccine sites are culturally responsive, linguistically appropriate and accessible to people with disabilities or other unique access needs. Partnerships with community-based organizations to address the inequities in vaccinations partnerships with employers to ensure that agricultural workers and other frontline workers have access to vaccines. Plans to reach people experiencing houselessness and other people who are at risk of severe COVID-19 illness or death have access to vaccines and activities to strengthen vaccine confidence in their community. OHA will support these local efforts by sharing effective outreach strategies developed in partnership with organizations serving communities of color. Grants to communities connect to counties to reduce vaccine inequities, distributing weekly data reports with counties to help them track progress, connections to CVOs who can partner to increase vaccinations.
Pat Allen: (26:16)
Once counties have demonstrated they’re making progress to implement their plans through the summer and close the vaccination gap in their community, we’ll release the second allotment of funding. Next slide please. In closing, I want to say to everyone who hasn’t been able to get vaccinated vaccination is a personal choice and the more people who choose to get vaccinated, the sooner we can all get back to seeing the people we love, doing things we enjoy and returning to the normal ways we live our lives. Medical experts continue to tell us the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and they’re free. It’s normal to have questions about COVID-19 vaccines and there are many places you can get your questions answered, starting with COVID vaccines.oregon.gov. Find out where you can get a vaccine so you can keep yourself and the people you love safe from COVID-19. With that, I’ll turn it back over to you, Governor brown.
Governor Brown: (27:14)
Thank you, Director Allen. With that, we’re ready for questions, Charles.
Thank you, Governor. We’ll start first with Lisa Blaylock from Coin. Go ahead, Lisa.
Lisa Blaylock: (27:25)
Yes. Good afternoon. A question some people have when it comes to the counties is how is the counting done? In other words, two examples. There are a lot of people in the Portland metro area that went down to Marion County to get vaccinated. Are they counted when it comes to the percentage is Marion County or perhaps, Multnomah County and the other also, college students? In other words, let’s say, live in the Portland area, got vaccinated in the county where their college is. How are those two groups counted?
Governor Brown: (27:56)
Thanks, Lisa. I’m going to turn that question over to Director Allen.
Pat Allen: (28:00)
Yeah. Thank you. At the county level, we’re using our
Pat Allen: (28:03)
Yeah, thank you. At the county level, we’re using our alert IAS system to track that. That is based on your county of residence. College kids can be a little bit iffy. Some maintain their place of residence from their home community. Others make their college town their point of residence. But in general, it’s where you live. The statewide data that we take from CDC is based on where you were vaccinated. Then when you roll that all up to the statewide level, with a few exceptions, where you got vaccinated, you got vaccinated in Oregon, and you live in Oregon. So it’s a little bit less meaningful. But at the county level, it’s where you live.
Thank you, Lisa. Our next question is from Brenda Kelly with KPTV. Go ahead, Brenda.
Yes. Good afternoon, Governor. I have two questions, if I may. The first, numerous restaurants were frustrated when they were forced to stop indoor dining for just a week. Was it worth it to close down for just that short amount of time? Did one week really help stop the spread? My second question, we’ve been told for weeks there’s no exact number or percentage that can be set for vaccinations, because COVID is a new disease. Why did you choose to set a vaccination goal now?
Governor Kate Brown: (29:20)
So in terms of your first question regarding our restaurants and bars, these small businesses are truly the heart and soul of Oregon’s economy and very much a part of who we are as Oregonians. They’re critically important to our economy. They’re also, frankly, very important to our culture as well. So I did not make that decision lightly. It was one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make. In terms of was it worth it, yes, absolutely, to slow the transmission of the disease, to protect vulnerable Oregonians and ensure that we had adequate hospital bed capacity and healthcare workers to staff those beds. Obviously, wanted to further limit deaths as well.
Governor Kate Brown: (30:08)
The good news is that we have reached the tipping point of the surge, and in this timeframe, we’re working, and hopefully sometime this week we will see two million Oregonians with at least one vaccine in their arms. So it’s good news, and it gave us time to get more vaccines in arms, which is what we needed to do to slow the spread of the disease. In terms of your second question, I’m going to turn it over to the Oregon health authority.
Pat Allen: (30:43)
Yeah, thanks. I can kind of take a crack at that. I think what people have been saying, experts have been saying is it’s difficult to pin down exactly what level of vaccination is necessary for herd immunity. As we’ve tried to indicate here, we’re not at all talking about herd immunity. We’ll have a lot of work yet to do after these metrics to get met to reach herd immunity. But what we also know is that at a vaccination rate well below herd immunity, you do begin to start seeing significant benefits and reductions in hospitalizations, reductions in deaths, and that’s really what we’re shooting for with the 70% statewide goal, is to get enough people vaccinated that while we’re still short of herd immunity, we’ve significantly driven down the worst outcomes of COVID-19 so that we can provide people with a specific target to shoot for to removing the restrictions that have been having an impact on people’s lives.
Thanks, Brenda. We’ll go next to Gary Warner with EO Media. Go ahead, Gary.
Gary Warner: (31:52)
Yeah, hi. Thanks for taking my question. Walk me through a little bit here how a county like the Deschutes County, which has over 500 cases per 100,000 right now, it’s the second highest in the state, could go off this program as early as next week because it hits the 65% mark? That’s the main question there. You’ve got this high rate.
Governor Kate Brown: (32:21)
[crosstalk 00:32:21]. Go ahead. I’m sorry. Was there anything else, Gary?
Gary Warner: (32:23)
No, no, no, just that there’s this very high rate, and then if they hit 65, they automatically go to the lower risk. I’m not quite sure I get that right.
Governor Kate Brown: (32:32)
So we know when we reach that level, 65% of adult Oregonians with vaccines in arms or 70%, these are really good indicators that we can safely reopen, begin the reopening of the economy, that we can protect our most vulnerable Oregonians and preserve adequate hospital bed capacity. They would be moving to lower risk, which is not a fully reopening of the economy. It’s a gradual lifting of safety protocol that the pandemic has forced upon us. Dr. Sidelinger, do you want to fill in there?
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (33:16)
Thank you, Governor Brown, and thank you, Gary, for that question. I think vaccination is not a tool that we had in November when the kind of risk level metrics were implemented. With vaccinations in hand, we’re seeing a tremendous reduction in cases. We saw that initially in our senior population with percent of seniors represented in cases and hospitalizations going way down. For counties who meet a metric of having 65% of their 16 and older vaccinated, that offers many less opportunities for the virus to transmit from one to another. So the rates in Deschutes County, as you mentioned, are high, and they’re still higher than we’d like, but they’re flattening, and they’re not increasing. With more people getting vaccines, we’re going to see that rate go down. So some of the opportunities for transmission just aren’t there, so those opportunities can become available to everyone in Deschutes.
Gary Warner: (34:14)
[crosstalk 00:34:14]. Oh, go ahead. Sorry.
Pat Allen: (34:15)
I was just going to add a tiny bit to that. I think one of the things about the vaccines is they’re extraordinarily good at preventing serious illness and death. So as more people get vaccinated, the relationship between cases and hospitalizations begins to break down. We’ve already begun to see that happen, and it accelerates as we get to higher levels of vaccination. So you get to a point where number of cases isn’t nearly as important as number of hospitalizations and those two things. You can have plenty of cases, but with a lot fewer hospitalizations, which is really what we’re focused on.
Gary Warner: (34:48)
How would this affect major events, sort of like the Pendleton Roundup, things like that? If they’re in this lower risk category, are those events going to be allowed to go forward automatically, or is there still some sort of standard that has to be met?
Governor Kate Brown: (35:03)
Well, Gary, you happened to pick one of my personal favorite events, the Pendleton Roundup. I know that’s usually the second week in September, and I would fully expect, as I mentioned earlier, there may be some CDC guidelines around masking that we will want to align with as we’re meeting Oregon’s needs. But I would fully expect that we will be able to let her box, so to speak, in September.
Gary Warner: (35:30)
Thank you, Gary. We’ll go next to Genevieve [inaudible 00:35:36] with K2. Go ahead, Genevieve.
Hey. Thanks for taking my questions. I have a few, but I will keep them short and sweet. First one has to do, if I can pivot a little bit to talk about the money that’s coming into the State of Oregon, thanks to the ARP, the American Rescue Plan. So we know that the State of Oregon is expecting to get $2.6 billion. So that money is just going to the state government level. How are you going to ensure there is equity in the use of this money, especially to marginalized communities or people in marginalized communities?
Governor Kate Brown: (36:16)
That’s a really good question. Frankly, the focus of my administration as we move forward and move into fully reopening the economy, I expect my administration and the legislature to put the voices of our historically underserved communities at the center and forefront of that conversation. You might recall I created the Racial Justice Council several months ago. The goal of the council was to center equity in our budget decisions and our legislative agenda, and we’ve done, I think, a very good of doing that. But racism will not be eradicated overnight. It will only be eradicated the way it was built, brick by brick, and we have to do everything we can as a state, as a community to continue that work and centering the voices of our historically underserved communities. Our Black, our Brown, our Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, African American, tribal, Native American, and Indigenous communities have to be at the forefront.
Thanks, Governor Brown. A followup to that, we know that the state has been anticipating this money for about two months now. What plans are already in place to figure out exactly what to do with this money once you get ahold of it?
Governor Kate Brown: (37:42)
Well, we’re obviously having to work collaboratively and collectively with the communities around Oregon. That includes community conversations. My team is doing that as we speak through the regional solutions advisory committees. The legislature is doing that through members and their connections. I think those conversations need to continue. I think it’s critically important that we invest these dollars in a way that creates transformational change for the entire state of Oregon.
Are you pleased with the 2.6 billion number that is roughly only 1% of the 350 billion going across the country?
Governor Kate Brown: (38:27)
I’m incredibly grateful for the Biden- Harris administration for understanding the challenges that states like Oregon face throughout this pandemic, that the efforts to rebuild and recover will take significant resources. I am pleased to see that they did direct allocation to our local jurisdictions, our counties and cities. I’m hoping we can partner with them to really work together to build a better Oregon for everyone.
Last question. I promise this one is quick. A group of Republicans are working to sponsor a bill that would mandate full-time in-person school for the 2021, 2022 school year. Would you support that legislation?
Governor Kate Brown: (39:13)
Look, it is my expectation that our students will be in the classroom full-time starting in the fall next year. I want to encourage parents of 12 to 15-year-olds to have conversations with their healthcare providers, with their pharmacists about getting these vaccines. If they have any questions, if they need more information, they should talk to their healthcare provider or their pharmacist. The way we know to reopen our economy and to get things back to normalicy is through these vaccines to prevent hospitalizations and deaths and obviously to reopen schools as well. I’m absolutely committed to reopening schools five days a week in the fall, and I’ve already directed the Department of Education to revise the Ready Schools, Safe Learners advice.
Thank you. I appreciate your time.
Thanks, Genevieve. We’ll go next to Bryce Dolan with the East Oregonian. Go ahead, Bryce.
Hi. Can you hear me?
Governor Kate Brown: (40:20)
Yes. We can hear you, Bryce.
Hi. Thanks for taking my question. So Governor Brown, this is a two-part question. Can you confirm that the state will be going forward with its plans to fund the $20 million for businesses in those 15 counties that were briefly placed in the extreme risk category recently?
Governor Kate Brown: (40:43)
Yes, we did move forward and are working to get those dollars out the door. Yes.
Okay. So my question is so can you explain the reasoning for funding those counties for that shorter lockdown rather than fund other counties? For example, only one county was under extreme risk and other lockdowns longer than Umatilla County, and that one county was Multnomah. Two other counties were under restrictions for the same amount of time, roughly 180 days. Each of those counties are getting funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Umatilla County isn’t getting a dollar, because it wasn’t in extreme risk for those few days. I guess I’m just kind of wondering why that is, and what do you say to officials that say that you’re ignoring communities where businesses have been hit especially hard by high cases and the ensuing restrictions?
Governor Kate Brown: (41:34)
Look, there’s absolutely no question that our businesses across the entire state have been hit hard by this pandemic. The move to extreme risk was because of a maximum capacity in terms of hospital beds and healthcare workers. It was extremely important that we do that. I wanted to make sure that we got money out the door as quickly as possible to help our small businesses in those counties. We are obviously working with our counties-
Governor Kate Brown: (42:02)
… counties. We are obviously working with our counties across the entire state to make sure that they have the resources they need to rebuild, to recover and to create a more just and equitable Oregon. As we just mentioned, there will be another $20 million going out the door to our counties to help with their vaccination efforts. I fully expect all of our counties to take advantage of these resources. In addition, the federal government is adding resources to our counties and specifically to our small businesses across the entire country. So those resources are available as well.
Okay. Thank you. And Director Allen, I have one question. I’m wondering how you plan to integrate vaccination rates from other entities into this plan? For example, hundreds, if not thousands of Umatilla County residents have been vaccinated by tribal health officials with the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, my understanding is that they report a lot of that data to the CDC and other residents have also gotten vaccinated in places like Washington. So how do you integrate that data into these plans that you’ve set for today?
Pat Allen: (43:16)
Yeah, thanks. Most tribes in Oregon actually do report into the ALERT IIS system. And actually as of today, I believe all nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon report. There was one tribe that for a time was not, but they started reporting, I want to say two or three weeks ago, and a Yellow Hawk has been reporting throughout into the alert system.
Governor Kate Brown: (43:37)
And Bryce, I will just say, we really appreciate the efforts that our tribal nations in Oregon, the nine federally right tribes, are making to ensure not only their tribal members get vaccinated, but their community members get vaccinated as well. We really appreciate that partnership.
Pat Allen: (43:55)
Now, I will say Bryce, that VA is another matter. The VA has not been reporting into the federal system. It’s about 100,000 doses, across all federal sources, but a lot of that is VA. At a statewide level, that’s not a ton that makes a big difference. But in some places it can make a big difference as a major source of vaccinations in a particular community. And we’re looking at ways to try to figure out how to adjust for that because despite everyone’s best efforts, we simply can’t get that data out of the federal government in a way that’s reliable.
Okay. Thank you for your time.
Pat Allen: (44:32)
We have time for just a few more questions. We’ll go next to Pat Dooris with KGW. Go ahead Pat.
Pat Dooris: (44:39)
Thank you. First, I was wondering if we could just nail down how many people are left to hit that 70% goal? I was doing some rough napkin adding, which is always dangerous, but it looks like maybe 439,000. Wonder if OHA you could verify that?
Pat Allen: (44:54)
I’m not here without a calculator. We’ll get you a number, Pat.
Pat Dooris: (45:03)
All right. Thank you. And then just a question about the 70% number, Governor, how’d you come up with that or the OHA, how’d you all agree on that? Because, I appreciate that you say it’s or below herd immunity, but it sounds like herd immunity. And I wonder if people are going to get confused, but there’s actually about a half million people not counted in that number if you’re going 16 and older. Thank you.
Governor Kate Brown: (45:26)
Well, no, it’s not herd immunity. And the number was a collective effort. As you might recall, I meet weekly with our medical advisory panel. We continue to rely on experts, healthcare professionals, and physicians and nurses that are at the Oregon Health Authority in making these decisions. What we know is this right now that Oregonians have done a really fine job getting vaccinated. Once they get their first vaccine right now, 95% of people returned for their second dose. We know this week, hopefully tomorrow that we will reach 2 million first doses in arms, which is really exciting. And we know that this is a really good indicator that we are able to limit the spread of the disease, protect vulnerable Oregonians, and ensure that we have adequate hospital bed and healthcare worker capacity. Dr. Sidelinger, do you want to add anything to that?
Dr. Dean Sidelinger: (46:36)
No, Governor Brown, that was very well stated. I think that the goals that we are talking about are percentages of currently eligible people, as you mentioned, so that’s 16 and older. It doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do to continue to increase vaccination rates in that population, to add on the 12 to 16 year olds when may become available later this week, we anticipate, and even to add on younger children, if they are approved or authorized Under FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization. So we will continue to work with our healthcare partners, our community based organizations, our local and tribal public health authorities to get vaccines into arms of every eligible Oregonian, and to answer questions and address any hesitancy or concerns if they have.
Pat Dooris: (47:18)
All right. Thank you.
Thanks Pat. We have time for just two more questions. We’ll go next to the Aimee Green with the Oregonian. Go ahead Aimee.
Aimee Green: (47:30)
Thanks. I have kind of a two-part question. I’m wondering, if I understand this correctly, if it’s smart to lift restrictions on counties with low vaccination rates, when the rest of the state reaches 70%. So you have like Umatilla, you have Malheur or a bunch of other counties lake that are in the low 30%s right now, won’t this create a situation if you lift statewide, that there could be flare ups or outbreaks in those counties? Because they have such low vaccination rates and it doesn’t really serve as motivation for them to reach a high level of immunity through vaccinations, if they’re just going to be brought up by the rest of the state.
Governor Kate Brown: (48:14)
Well, we fully expect the work of public health to continue around contact tracing and other measures, and I’d ask that Director Banks speak to that. In terms of the vaccine, hesitancy in communities around the state, look, here’s what we know, Oregonians every single day, continue to get vaccinated. We know that by taking these vaccines, it’s the best way we can safely reopen our economy. My goal was to have a solid majority of Oregonians vaccinated that we ensure that our communities of color have access and that vaccines would be available before we fully reopen and every single corner of the state and every single community, and that we have adequate health care capacity and hospital bed capacity. I feel confident the indicators show that we can meet these goals by the end of June. That doesn’t mean we will stop. We will continue to ensure that Oregonians across the state can continue to get vaccinated as long as we have vaccines available. Director Banks, would you please speak to local public health measures?
Rachael Banks: (49:34)
I’m happy to. Thank you, Governor Brown and appreciate the question. So as Governor Brown mentioned, we will continue to work with local public health authorities on contact tracing and testing and all of those things that we do to prevent disease every day in public health. I will say there are phenomenal public health administrators and counties who’ve been working extremely hard to get folks vaccinated. We will continue to do that. And also as we’re working with counties on those equity plans, it’s really part of this continued effort and saying, some communities will need some more time to get vaccinated for a lot of different reasons, perhaps more information, perhaps having a different or more convenient site. So those are things that we will all continue to work on in the public health system, as well as, once again, just containing disease like we do every day, as well as vaccinations, which are core, are bread and butter [inaudible 00:50:29].
Aimee Green: (50:32)
Let me just make sure I understand. So let’s say Malheur County is at 35% of people 16 and older, who are partially vaccinated. The rest of the state is at 70%. Well most statewide restrictions will be lifted in Malheur County, as well as the rest of the state. Also understanding that if it’s at 35% partially vaccinated 16 and older, that’s really more like 25% of the population or somewhere down lower of the general population that’s fully vaccinated, that we’re going to lift restrictions there.
Governor Kate Brown: (51:09)
Aimee Green: (51:10)
Correct? Okay. Thank you.
Thanks Aimee. We have time for just one more question. So we’ll go next to Amelia Templeton with OPB. Go ahead. Amelia. Are you there? Let’s try Aaron Ross-
Amelia Templeton: (51:34)
Can you hear me? I’m sorry.
Oh go ahead.
Amelia Templeton: (51:37)
Yes. Thank you. Oregon has statewide mask mandate in place. Can you clarify under this, when we reached the 70% target, when and where masks will be required and when people will not have to mask.
Governor Kate Brown: (51:56)
It’s Amelia, right? So the answer is, we don’t know at this point in time, as I mentioned in my remarks, we would align to the extent possible with the CDC guidelines, as long as we’re meeting Oregonian’s needs. So we’re waiting to see what the CDC does. As you’re probably aware, Dr. Fauci has given some indicators and we’ll wait and see what happens with the CDC.
Pat Allen: (52:31)
Charles, if I can, I do have an answer to Pat Dooris’s question from a minute ago.
Pat Allen: (52:37)
Due to the magic of text messages, the number, Pat is 430,000 people approximately. So you were pretty close.
Pat Dooris: (52:44)
Okay. Thank you.
Governor Kate Brown: (52:46)
Director Allen, I would say that that’s really close for back of the napkin, back of the envelope calculation. And with that close, thank you all so much. Please, please, please, we’re doing a really fine job getting Oregonians vaccinated. Let’s get this done. Let’s get our economy fully reopened and enjoy your summer and we can do it together.