Return to ‘High Risk’ looms on Washington County’s horizon

Coronavirus

Gov. Kate Brown says Oregon 'will keep moving forward' despite loss of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More restrictions may be on the way for the Portland metro area as the number of COVID-19 cases climbs.

Washington County epidemiologist Kimberly Repp said Wednesday she expects the county will soon join Multnomah and Clackamas counties in the state’s “High Risk” category.

“We’re tired of social distancing, wearing masks — it’s getting nice out, we want to play, we are Oregonians and I think we have just become lazy in our habits,” Repp said.

More than a year after Oregonians were ordered to stay home, cases are once again climbing. The Oregon Health Authority said the latest weekly report shows a third consecutive week of surging cases, higher hospitalizations and higher deaths than the previous week. Between April 5 and April 11, Oregon saw 3,722 new cases representing a 26% increase from the week before as well as 47 new COVID-19-related deaths — the highest weekly total in five weeks.

Last week, the state reported about 300 new cases of COVID-19 variants. Multnomah and Clackamas counties recently returned to the “High Risk” level, forcing restaurants and gyms to further limit capacity. But the restrictions may not be enough to sway public behavior.

“The last time we saw significant behavior change is when hospitals were full and people couldn’t get in,” said Repp.

Meanwhile, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown took a closer look at a community-based federal health clinic in Woodburn where many agricultural workers have been getting vaccinated. Brown said she believes the loss of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine represents “a relatively small part of the effort in our overall vaccine strategy and we will keep moving forward.” But general vaccine supplies have yet to keep pace with demand. By Wednesday, 945,453 Oregonians were fully vaccinated and nearly 1.5 million people had received at least one dose.

Brown herself was among the more than 85,000 Oregonians to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before the Oregon Health Authority asked all vaccine providers to immediately stop its use on Tuesday. The request followed new federal findings of blood clots in some women who received the vaccine.

“I am one of 6 million Americans that got the Johnson & Johnson vaccination and I am incredibly grateful to have this level of protection from serious illness from COVID,” said Brown on Wednesday. “I think the pause was done here in Oregon and across the country out of an abundance of caution.”

Brown said her office will be in touch with the White House later this week on whether Oregon can expect an increase in vaccine shipments.

Starting Monday, all Oregonians who are 16 and older will become eligible for the vaccine.

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