SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown and state health officials held a press conference on Friday morning to discuss Oregon's ongoing coronavirus response, giving a mix of grim and positive news.
According to Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen, Oregon saw 2,176 new cases of the virus on Friday — a new daily record that brings the state above 80,000 cases since the pandemic began. The last time Oregon saw less than 1,000 cases was on November 27, and November 17 before that.
Allen also reported 30 more deaths attributed to the virus, again a daily record. The newest fatalities bring Oregon's death toll past the 1,000 mark.
With cases spurred by Thanksgiving gatherings only beginning to appear, Allen warned that the surge continues unabated, and is only expected to get worse.
"The toughest times for this crisis in our state lie ahead," Allen said.
Alongside the grim tidings came a bright spot — the prospect of a first round of COVID-19 vaccines headed to Oregon within the next two weeks.
Allen said that members of the FDA are set to meet in order to consider emergency use approval of the first vaccine next week. The first doses of that vaccine, produced by Pfizer, are expected to ship to Oregon on December 15 with 35,100 doses — assuming the vaccine does receive approval.
A second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, with 40,950 doses, is expected to ship on December 22.
If the FDA also grants approval for the Moderna vaccine, it is set to ship to Oregon on December 22 with about 71,900 doses. Both vaccines proved to be roughly 95 percent effective in clinical trials.
"We just need you to hold on a little bit longer, and hope is on the way," Governor Brown said.
According to Allen, those first shipments will be distributed to healthcare workers, first responders, and both staff and residents of long-term care facilities. Brown expected that the first round of vaccinations would be completed by the end of January.
After that first group, Brown indicated that school staff, other essential workers, and members of underserved communities would be prioritized in the next round.
Despite the vaccine news, Brown underlined that Oregonians should remain vigilant with their efforts to reduce spread of the virus as the state enters its new "risk level" system of restrictions. Brown cited state data that indicated more than 84 percent of Oregonians are wearing masks, and fewer people are traveling.
"Ten months into this pandemic, when we are all so incredibly tired of dealing with COVID-19, the data is showing that the majority of Oregonians are listening to public health recommendations — you're wearing your masks and staying home," Brown said. "With Oregon slated to begin receiving vaccines in mid-December, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. But the introduction of a vaccine does not end this pandemic. Right now and into the foreseeable future, the only way to reduce transmission and slow the spread of this disease is to continue to take safety precautions until the vaccine is both widely available and widely administered."