PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon’s declaration of a state of emergency until May 2 as confirmed COVID-19 cases drop but hundreds of new cases continue to be reported daily.
“Throughout the pandemic, Oregonians have made smart choices that have protected our families and loved ones,” Brown said. “Our infection and mortality rates have consistently remained some of the lowest in the country. And, for the first time, COVID-19 critical care units are seeing fewer and fewer patients.”
The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported 553 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 154,554. The state’s death toll is 2,204.
The agency’s weekly COVID-19 report, which was released Wednesday, shows a sharp decreases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week.
The health authority reported a 35% decrease in cases and a 42% decrease in hospitalization.
The emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued, including her orders surrounding reopening Oregon, childcare, schools and higher education operations. Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect. The governor reviews and reevaluates each of her emergency orders every 60 days
Brown first declared an emergency declaration in March, when there were only 14 known COVID-19 cases in the state.
“As we vaccinate thousands of Oregonians each day and reopen more school buildings and businesses as safely as possible, now is not the time to let up our guard. New, more infectious COVID-19 variants are circulating in the United States, including several confirmed cases in Oregon.:
Oregon Republican senators refused to show up to Thursday’s floor session, objecting to the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions and handling of reopening schools, vaccine rollout and economic recovery.
In a statement from Senate Republicans, the lawmakers said, “Despite declining case counts, today you extended your emergency declaration, squeezing Oregonians even more. The Legislature cannot do its work to help Oregonians recover when people cannot go back to work because of orders requiring small businesses to stay closed.”
As case counts have improved, the governor announced that 16 counties, including Marion County where the Capitol is, will be moving to lower risk levels — allowing increased capacity for indoor dining and gyms. The new risk levels go into effect Friday.
Five counties — Benton, Coos, Douglas, Jefferson and Josephine — remain in the ‘extreme risk’ level, which bans indoor dining.
“For the second time in a row, we are seeing great progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon and saving lives,” Brown said.
The Oregon Health Authority also reported that 22,841 new doses of the COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry.
A cumulative total of 881,206 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to Oregonians.
This week, vaccine eligibility opened up to people 70 and older. Beginning Monday, people who are 65 or older will be eligible for vaccine.
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.