REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
COVID-19 and Vaccine Update
December 4, 2020
I’m here to give an update on COVID-19, and am joined virtually by:
● Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority;
● Rachael Banks, OHA’s Public Health Director; and
● Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist.
Since the start of this crisis, I have been committed to giving you a full picture of where Oregon stands with our pandemic response. Even when it’s hard news to hear.
This week, our statewide Two-Week Freeze ended, and our new Risk and Safety Framework launched. The majority of the state has moved into the “extreme risk” level, which means the virus is still widespread across 25 counties, and these counties remain under strict restrictions.
Times are really tough right now.
I’ve said this before, but it needs to be said again: We are not out of this crisis yet. I know it’s hard to imagine, but in fact, our hardest days still lie ahead.
Our hospitals are filling up, and many are reducing elective surgeries. Today we have a record number of infections again: more than 2,100 cases and sadly 30 deaths — the fourth straight day of double digit deaths in Oregon from this virus.
And we are all ready for this to be over.
Our new modeling confirms our worst fears that this pandemic can indeed get much worse before we can get the majority of our population vaccinated. And it likely will.
I will let Director Banks share more, but what we know is that it is possible that by Christmas, we will be reporting more than double the case rates we are seeing now. When I think about that, I am just horrified.
I know a large majority of Oregonians recognize how serious this situation is, and that we are on the brink of full-blown crisis.
The data proves this. More than 84% of Oregonians are wearing a mask. Recent data shows that transportation across the state is down 35%. Cell phone mobility data also tells us less people are going to the office, and more Oregonians are staying at home — which means many of you are taking the right steps to stop the spread of this disease.
Ten months into this pandemic, when we are all so incredibly tired of dealing with COVID-19, the data is showing that the majority of Oregonians are listening.
To every one of you who continues to make smart choices and follow public health recommendations that help stop this disease from further spreading — thank you.
To every one of you that is staying home to the best extent possible and wearing your mask: you are helping protect our doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, postal workers, agricultural workers, and the many others who we count on to keep society going during this pandemic — thank you.
I know it’s exhausting, and the sacrifices are real. Whether it’s closing the indoor dining at your restaurant, or balancing work from home while helping your children with distance learning.
Or maybe you just miss your friends and family this holiday season, but are limiting your social gatherings because you know that’s the safest way to protect them, and others.
Your actions, as hard as they may be, are making a difference. They are saving lives.
No action is too small. Every time you mask up, stay home when sick, limit a gathering — you are making a difference.
And we just need you to hold on a little bit longer.
Because hope is on the way.
As we previously mentioned, and as you may be seeing in the national news, there are two vaccines on the precipice of FDA approval: Pfizer and Moderna.
Our federal partners tell us that pending approval, Oregon will be receiving 35,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, shipping December 15th. And the following week, approximately 71,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be on their way.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s remarkable that scientific strides have enabled us to have a vaccine just mere months into this historic pandemic.
Rigorous clinical trials have not only worked to ensure the vaccines are safe, but that they are safe for our vulnerable and diverse communities. And through our Western States’ Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, some of the foremost doctors, scientists, and immunologists in the west will be reviewing and confirming each FDA approval.
In line with CDC guidance, we will be prioritizing frontline health care workers and long-term care residents and employees as the first group to receive the vaccine. This includes our doctors, nurses, janitorial staff, and others who have the potential for direct or indirect contact with COVID-19 patients or infectious materials.
Director Allen and Director Banks will go into more details, but we anticipate that all Oregonians in these settings will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of January.
As the vaccine becomes more available, we will be exploring how we can use the vaccine as a potential tool to get our kids back into the classrooms as quickly as possible; how we can protect Oregonians in high-risk jobs; and how we can prioritize communities disproportionately bearing the brunt of the pandemic, and past and current health inequities.
And when it is my turn to receive a vaccine, once approved by the FDA, I will be ready to take it.
The introduction of a vaccine does not end this pandemic. Right now, and into the foreseeable future, the only way to reduce transmission and slow the spread is to take safety precautions until the vaccine is both widely available and widely administered.
This is going to take time.
I will end with saying that I know these are the vaccines we have all been waiting for. And as we work across Oregon — and the entire country — to get them widely distributed, I am asking you all to buckle down for just a little bit longer.
We can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel, but we are not there yet. We have to keep at it.
With that, I will turn it over to Director Allen.