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Coronavirus Watch: Gov. Brown extends COVID-19 state of emergency, anticipating Omicron surge

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SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that she has extended her state of emergency declaration for the coronavirus, saying that it provides needed flexibility for facing an anticipated surge of the Omicron variant.

In a press conference with Governor Brown and state officials last week, OHSU lead data scientist Dr. Peter Graven predicted that the Omicron variant could surpass Delta in hospitalizations due to its apparent extreme transmissibility.

“As Oregon prepares for what could be our worst surge in hospitalizations during this pandemic, I know that this is not the beginning of the new year any of us had hoped for,” said Governor Brown. “Time and again over the last two years, Oregonians have proven that we will stand with each other in our most difficult times. Your actions have saved lives, and it is because we have worked together to keep each other safe that Oregon still has some of the lowest infection and mortality rates in the nation. Please, do your part again––get vaccinated, get your booster shot, and wear a mask.”

Brown's office said that the emergency declaration provides the necessary framework to mobilize resources in the state's COVID-19 response, allowing the deployment of medical providers to hospitals, providing flexibility around professional health licensing, and ensuring that Oregon can continue to access federal disaster relief funds.

The extended emergency declaration, Executive Order 21-36, will remain in effect until June 30 of 2022 unless extended or rescinded.

Brown rescinded a number of executive orders governing COVID-19 restrictions at the end of June this year, but left the emergency declaration in place. This was before the Delta variant surged over the summer.

"In responding to the subsequent Delta surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the Governor for the most part did not use her executive authority to issue new emergency orders," Brown's office said. "She did take other steps, such as activating the Oregon National Guard to help support hospital workers, and coordinating with the Oregon Health Authority to bring skilled healthcare workers to Oregon to support hospital and long-term care facility staff."

Oregon's indoor mask requirement, vaccine mandates for K-12 teachers and staff, and the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers do not hinge on the emergency declaration, but instead come through administrative rules issued by agencies like the Oregon Health Authority and OSHA.