19 Oregon Counties Now In Lower Risk Category for COVID-19

vaccine Kate Brown at vaccine clinic.jpeg

Clatsop County will become the 19th county to have the “lower risk” ranking for COVID-19, but its drop stems from the decline in COVID-19 cases -- not a rise in vaccinations.

The lower risk ranking eliminates the capacity restrictions that restaurants, retail outlets and entertainment venues have worked under during the pandemic and gets Oregon closer to pre-pandemic life.

The addition this week of just a single county to the lower-risk category illustrates the ongoing slowdown in the state’s vaccination momentum.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has set a goal of vaccinating 70% of adults statewide with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in order to lift the COVID-19 risk framework restrictions in all counties, regardless of their individual vaccination rate. 

State data show at least 66% of adults statewide have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, which requires two doses spaced several weeks apart. Only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose only. So far, 2.2 million Oregonians have had at least one vaccine dose. Of those, nearly 1.9 million people have completed the required doses, according to state data released Tuesday.

But rural counties have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with six counties still below 40%. 

Counties can enter the lower risk ranking either through a drop in COVID-19 case levels or achieving a 65% vaccination rate among adults. So far, only six of Oregon’s 36 counties have achieved that 65% threshold.

Clatsop, with a vaccine-eligible population of 19,800, has a vaccination rate of 60.4%.

Brown on Tuesday announced the change for Clatsop, which sits on the northernmost end of the Oregon Coast. The rate change is effective Friday. The state reviews vaccination rates for counties each week.

Also, Lane and Polk counties moved from high risk to moderate risk, loosening their restrictions, Brown announced. Lane has a vaccination rate of 62.9% for its vaccine-eligible population of 203,500, and Polk, 61.8% of its vaccine-eligible population of 50,000. The moderate risk category also has Coos and Wasco counties.

“The science is clear: vaccines are very effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19, and they are the key to returning to normal life and lifting health and safety restrictions statewide," Brown said in a statement. "Thanks to all the Oregonians who have been vaccinated so far, Oregon’s case rates have continued to decline. But, COVID-19 remains a serious threat to unvaccinated individuals and communities with low vaccination rates. If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, go get your shot today.”

However, no new counties have achieved the lower risk ranking this week due to vaccination rates crossing the 65% threshold. It’s another sign of the uphill battle the state faces as mass vaccine events dwindle and vaccination work transitions into primary care clinics and smaller-scale targeted community events. 

The six counties to achieve a 65% vaccination rate or higher are: Multnomah, Washington, Benton, Hood River, Deschutes and Lincoln counties. Some counties in the lower risk category due to a decline in COVID-19 cases struggle with low vaccination rates. These include Lake County, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the state of 34%. 

Thirteen counties remain in the high risk category: Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Umatilla

and Yamhill. Counties with high risk categories face more restrictions, such as capacity limits for restaurants and indoor venues as low as 25%.

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1




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