SALEM, Ore. — A dozen Oregon counties are on the verge of being placed back on "Extreme Risk" restrictions as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, Governor Kate Brown said on Friday.
Brown and state officials put the Extreme Risk category on hold earlier this month, putting in place a new statewide hospitalization metric that spared counties from returning to the state's highest restriction level even if their case rates would have otherwise qualified them under Oregon's county risk level framework.
Cases of the virus have been steadily rising since the beginning of April, and now Oregon is nearing the hospitalization "triggers" outlined in early April.
If case rates and hospitalizations continue to climb, Brown warned that qualifying counties will be placed back on Extreme Risk status effective Friday, April 30. There will be no "warning week," as would normally be the case for changes to county risk levels.
"In the race between vaccines and variants, right now the variants have the upper hand," said Governor Brown. "Today’s cases topped 1,000, with Oregon now ranking second in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread. Our hospitals are about to surpass 300 positive COVID-19 cases. That means several counties are on the verge of having to reinstate Extreme Risk restrictions on businesses and activities."
In southern Oregon, Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties have all been on High Risk despite qualifying for Extreme based on case rate metrics. Under Extreme Risk restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited at restaurants, and capacity requirements become much tighter at many other businesses and venues.
With vaccinations still ongoing, Brown said that this may be the last time for restrictions this rigorous.
"In order to fully reopen our economy, we need to reach a significant majority of Oregonians with a vaccine; we need to close the equity gap in our vaccine efforts; and vaccine supplies need to be readily available for all eligible Oregonians who want to be protected," Brown continued. "Vaccines are your best protection against the variants and the quickest way for us all to get back to the people and things we miss the most."
The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,020 new confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily total in months. The agency also reported nine more fatalities across the state, bringing Oregon's death toll to 2,476.
As of Friday, 276 people were hospitalized in Oregon with COVID-19. Of those patients, 64 were in intensive care.