PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Friday that family members of frontline workers will also become eligible for the COVID vaccine on Monday.
This announcement comes as COVID cases in Oregon continue to climb. Brown warned that a fourth surge is at the doorstep.
“Make no mistake, this is a race between the vaccines and the variants. It’s a critical moment for us all to double down to outrun this next wave,” Brown said.
State Health Officer and State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger also expressed concern about the recent uptick in COVID cases in the state.
“We are seeing lately an increase in daily cases and a corresponding uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations,” he said. “For the month of March, hospitalizations have increased by 17%. Our rolling 7-day average has increased by 22%, to 392 daily cases, as of April 1.”
This is why state health officials are trying to speed up the timeline in getting more people vaccinated. Most Oregonians are still waiting for their first shot.
Besides frontline workers and family members, residents living in multigenerational households, pregnant women and anyone 16 and older with an underlying health condition are also eligible for a vaccine starting Monday in Multnomah County.
As many as 30 thousand vaccine doses are being administered each day in Oregon.
Criteria for underlying conditions were also expanded by the Oregon Health Authority, to match with updates from the CDC.
On Monday, Group 6 in Phase 1b of Oregon’s vaccine rollout plan became eligible for the shot. This group includes people who are considered at a higher risk for a serious COVID-19 infection, such as people 45 years old or older with underlying health conditions, seasonal farm and agricultural workers, people in low-income senior housing and houseless people.
Employees at grocery stores, in public transit, construction, retail and other frontline workers as defined by the CDC will be able to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment starting April 5, along with people over 50 who live in multi-generational households.
OHA Director Pat Allen said there will be no known delays despite news that shipments of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was delayed.
He did emphasize that not every eligible Oregonian will be able to get an appointment right away.
Although 70% of Oregonians over 65 are vaccinated, officials said they are worried because demand for vaccines is down.
The state aims to open vaccine eligibility to everyone by May 1, but vaccine delivery delays may cause longer wait times for a vaccine.
So far, 28% of Oregonians have had their first shot and 17% are fully inoculated against the virus. These figures align with national averages.
Kindergartners and 1st graders returned to classrooms in the Portland area on Thursday as school districts began implementing Brown’s order to reopen schools. The hybrid learning model will be staggered, with students in 6th through 12th grades returning last for some in-person learning starting the week of April 19.
Asked if she thought this is the right time to bring kids back as coronavirus cases are rising, Brown said she’s comfortable with this decision.
“What the CDC makes clear is that the risk of transmission is low as kids come into the classroom and we observe the safety protocol,” the governor said. “The good news is Oregon has some of the most rigorous safety protocol in the entire country.”