REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Press Conference - Special Session, Holidays, Teachers
December 22, 2020
The holiday season has arrived, and it’s certainly bittersweet that we’re here to give another update on COVID-19 in Oregon.
I’m joined by:
● Director Patrick Allen of the Oregon Health Authority; and
● Rachael Banks, OHA’s Public Health Director.
It’s really tough to be heading into a time of year when traditional celebrations are once again hindered by the virus. Oregon is now well above 100,000 cases, and we have sadly hit 1,347 deaths.
Every single family that has lost a loved one to this virus, and every Oregonian that has suffered emotionally, financially, or physically from COVID-19 — I want you to know that you are in my thoughts. I know this hasn’t been an easy year.
I do, however, want to shed light on some positive news.
This week we began administering vaccinations to long-term care residents and staff — finally putting us on the offense for our most vulnerable Oregonians. Since the very early days of this pandemic, one of the greatest tragedies has been the deadly nature of COVID-19 for our seniors living in long-term care.
Not even our most strict policies of infection control and visitation protocols have been able to fully protect elderly Oregonians living in these facilities. It feels really good that we are now able to start these vaccinations, with the hope that these folks can reunite with their families once again, and feel safe from this virus soon.
Nearly 4,500 frontline health care workers in Oregon have received vaccine doses so far. Step by step we are making great progress fighting this virus.
I say that because in addition to rolling out this much-awaited vaccine campaign, there’s evidence that our 2-Week Freeze and the measures we have taken since then, blunted the virus surge we were all dreading as we entered the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanks to Oregonians respecting our safety measures, and making changes to their holiday plans, we did not see the spike in cases we feared — and as we saw following previous holidays.
I hope you all heard that: thanks to the decisions you, and the majority of Oregonians continue to make, we are slowing the spread of this disease. And while our case counts are still up, we are avoiding many worst-case scenarios.
I am extremely proud of us, and I hope you are too. This is proof that we determine how the next few months play out while we work to swiftly distribute the COVID vaccine far and wide.
So, as we did with Thanksgiving, I ask you to once again re-think your Christmas and New Year’s plans. Dan and I will miss ice skating in Minnesota with my family this year, but look forward to a day filled with phone calls to our loved ones, and of course, no New Year’s Eve party this year!
In more good news, by now we have all seen that Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package. I appreciate the Oregon Congressional delegation’s hard work in getting this package over the finish line to deliver much needed resources to Oregon families and businesses.
This is in addition to the $800 million package the Legislature set aside during yesterday’s special session. I called for a special session because it’s absolutely critical we get help to Oregonians who have made the necessary sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
And I am incredibly grateful to the Legislature for coming together to pass policy bills that will provide relief for tenants and landlords, will keep roofs over people’s heads by extending the eviction moratorium, and support our restaurants and bars. I’m also grateful to the bipartisan work of lawmakers to deliver on a wildfire relief package.
As Governor, one of the most difficult parts about the pandemic is that the decision to close down businesses and parts of our society when we have a surge in cases can be both very difficult for Oregonians — and yet very necessary.
But I know that even when needed to save lives, these measures take a toll on so many who are trying to provide for their families or keep a safe, warm place to call home.
Both the $800 million in relief from our state Legislature, and the long awaited stimulus package from Congress will be an enormous lifeline for Oregonians who have suffered so much. It will help carry us through the coming months as we continue to gain traction with our vaccine campaign.
Last week we vaccinated our first health care workers, and I think for that moment we all glimpsed that light at the end of this long tunnel. And as we continue to work our way through vaccinating our health care workers, as well as residents and staff in long-term care facilities, we look next to the groups identified by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and recommended to the CDC: including people over 75 and workers who are critical to keeping society going.
One thing I know for sure is that our educators, school staff, child care and early learning educators must be top of the list in Oregon’s next round of vaccines.
Our kids need to know they’re number one. And that we’re doing everything we can to get them back into the classrooms.
This pandemic has shown us the hard truth that in-person instruction is so much more than what we take it for at face value. School is where our kids connect with their community. It’s where many kids get meals and much-needed support from caring adults. It’s a place of comfort, learning and growth.
Educators and school staff are without a doubt essential to Oregon — and getting our kids back into the classroom is crucial to all of our success. As we continue to work toward stemming the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, getting our teachers and school staff vaccinated will help ensure we are making learning environments as safe as possible.
I will end by once again saying thank you. I know the mere thought of 2020 coming to an end brings a smile to many of our faces. It surely has been a year for the books. Even in our most difficult moments, I continue to be endlessly impressed with how Oregonians come together and lift one another up during tough times.
You all remind me of how special our state really is. Please stay safe over the holidays, and as we ring in the new year.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Director Allen.