In Latest Risk Level Shuffle: Polk County Nears 65% Vaccination Rate

Vaccine covid Pfizer box Fritz Liedtke OHSU .jpg

A health care worker unpacks the Pfizer vaccine at Oregon Health & Science University.

Polk County is poised to become the next Oregon county to move to the lower risk level in the state’s COVID-19 framework, Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday. 

The county, which is less than 1% away from a 65% vaccination rate of adults, will move immediately into the lower risk category when it reaches that benchmark, Brown said. The announcement was part of her weekly news release detailing changes in county risk levels. 

Jackson County moved from high risk to moderate risk due to a drop in cases. The southern Oregon county was the only other county to change categories, which determine COVID-19 restrictions. 

The state continues to inch toward its goal of vaccinating 70% of all adults 18 and older. About 68% of adult Oregonians are vaccinated. State officials project Oregon could reach the target by the end of the month.

When that happens, the state’s risk level restrictions will end. That will eliminate capacity limits in businesses statewide and other requirements, such as the use of  masks in most public places. The state will still require masks in some settings such as public transit and health care facilities based on federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are incredibly close to achieving a 70% statewide adult vaccination rate, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and lifting health and safety restrictions," Brown said in a statement. "Vaccines are the best way for Oregonians to protect themselves, their families, and communities against COVID-19. Because so many Oregonians have stepped up to get vaccinated, Oregon’s case rates and hospitalizations have continued to decline.”

The announcement came on the same day that California officially reopened by dropping most of the COVID-19 restrictions. In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee has set June 30 as the date when COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted. 

In Oregon, the rate of vaccinations has dropped from a high of nearly 44,000 doses a day a month ago to about 18,000 last week. That’s since fallen to 13,500. If the current rate were to hold, Oregon would meet the target in about a week.

But with the recent precipitous drop in the number of vaccines administered, restrictions could stay in place a bit longer.

The lower risk category has the least restrictive public health measures for COVID-19 in areas such as capacity limits for restaurants, bars, retail outlets and entertainment venues. Twenty-two of Oregon’s 36 counties are now in that category, including Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. Polk County still has about 500 people to vaccinate before it reaches the 65% threshold.

Counties quality for that level either through a drop in COVID-19 infection rates or reaching a 65% vaccination rate. Only eight counties have qualified due to their vaccination rate, including Lane, Hood River, Benton, Lincoln, Deschutes and all three Portland-area counties.

Effective Friday, five counties will be at the moderate risk level and nine counties in the high risk level.

The moderate risk counties are: Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Polk and Yamhill. 

The high risk counties are: Columbia, Crook, Douglas, Jefferson, Klamath, Linn, Malheur, Marion and Umatilla.

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

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