Oregon health officials are confirming that the latest modeling shows COVID-19 cases are slowing.
"But we can't rest on our laurels," Oregon Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said. "This is not an on-off fix. It's a dimmer fix. We need to be prepared if COVID reemerges. Whether it's the current Delta variant or future variants that may not even be known yet. They could come back with a vengeance."
Sidelinger, commented during a Tuesday, Sept. 7 news briefing with Gov. Kate Brown, and said while the new modeling offers some encouragement, some people are taking less precautions and he stressed that the unvaccinated need to be vaccinated and wearing face coverings in public buildings and outside when among crowds will be key to slowing the pandemic in the weeks ahead.
"This is a crisis that is largely being driven by people that are not vaccinated against COVID-19," Slidelinger said. "The decisions we make over the next few weeks will determine if we plunge further into this crisis."
Gov. Kate Brown said because more Oregonians are masking up and continuing to get vaccinated, the projected length of the latest surge has been cut. However, she said, there are still challenging times ahead.
"And we must remain vigilant," Brown said. "Every action you take impacts how this plays out. Every time you mask up you’re helping our doctors and nurses do their jobs. Every time you mask up, you’re helping our kids return to school more safely. And every time you mask up you’re helping keep our businesses and communities open."
Brown said COVID-19 is still "very dangerous and unpredictable," and that new federal research confirms that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Colt Gill told reporters the pandemic health and safety protocols now in place will help ensure in-person learning will continue through the entire school year.
"The protocols we have in place with the state’s guidance of masking and vaccinations we really do a lot to make sure COVID doesn’t start in our schools," he said, adding that everyone has a responsibility to help keep kids in school by getting vaccinated, wearing masks and limiting large gatherings.
For families with children heading back to the classroom, Gill said the ODE has released the following five straightforward back-to-school tips:
• Make a plan to vaccinate all eligible household members
• Wear a face covering in public and in carpools
• Limit gatherings with other households
• Move any social activities outside
• Make a plan in case your child needs to miss school
Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and ODE have issued the following School Health Advisory, to remain in effect statewide Sept. 7 – Oct. 1, unless otherwise updated:
1) All eligible youth and adults who come in contact with school-age children should vaccinate to reduce spread in the school community.
2) Families with school-age children and educators should limit gatherings and non-essential activities with people from other households to the extent possible. If you are visiting people from another household, you should wear a mask, maintain a physical distance of 6 feet, and keep activities outdoors as much as possible.
3) To the extent possible, schools and other organizations should reduce extracurricular activities and consider holding activities, such as meals, recess, physical education classes, music and choir, outdoors to maximize physical distancing. Likewise, if schools and other organizations proceed with extracurricular activities, they should consider holding them outdoors and implementing additional precautions like face coverings and physical distancing.
4) Schools should hold beginning of the year family events (open houses, meet the teacher nights, etc.) online, rather than in-person. If events are held in-person, ensure all participants wear masks, hold the events outside, and maintain physical distancing of
6 feet to the degree possible.
5) Families should check your school’s website or ODE’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners website to review your school’s Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan.
'This isn't about you'
At the end of the media briefing, Brown made a statement directed at all Oregonians.
"This isn’t about you," Brown said. "This is about the kids under 12 that can't get vaccinated. This is about your friend or your neighbor who is struggling with cancer and for whatever reason cannot receive a vaccine right now. This is for our entire community. It is also about health care workers that have been working day and night for weeks, for months now to keep Oregonians alive. They need us to keep wearing our masks.”
On Sept. 7, The OHA reported 54 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,326. The OHA also reported 5,821 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, rising the state total to 289,649.
The totals reflect data reported by local health officials over four days, between Sept. 3 and Sept.6