Lane County public health officials heaved a collective sigh of relief as the county entered the lowest COVID-19 risk category on June 9, where it will remain until all restrictions are lifted entirely.
Over the weekend, the county hit its eligibility requirement of having 65% of residents aged 16 and older vaccinated, said Jason Davis, county public health spokesperson. The reduced risk level means less restrictions on business owners. It also means the county cannot flip back into a higher risk category.
“We can now begin to enjoy another major step toward resuming normal life,” said Joe Berney, chair of the Lane County Board of Commissioners.
Hyper-local cities are less than 50% vaccinated, with the exception of Springfield, of which 46,368 (51.03%) of the residents are vaccinated, according to county data and organized by zip code. In Creswell, 4,718 (46.6%) residents are vaccinated, 1,471 (46.3%) in Pleasant Hill and 8,187 (45.7%) residents in Cottage Grove are vaccinated.
The low-risk category means that:
– Restaurants and bars can seat half capacity indoors, up to 300 people outdoors and can seat a group of up to eight people. Closing hour is extended to midnight.
– Indoor gathering sizes increase to 10 people and four different households. Outdoor gatherings increase to up to 12 people.
– Gyms, fitness and indoor recreation is at half capacity, and both indoor and outdoor full-contact sports are now allowed.
– Movie theatres, concert halls, museums, zoos, senior centers and other indoor and outdoors entertainment establishments are at half capacity and can be open until midnight.
– Retail stores and street markets and fair capacity is 75%.
– Churches, funeral homes and cemetery capacity is 75% with up to 300 people.
Public officials said the next steps are to strive for county herd immunity and to wait for the remaining counties to reach their vaccination requirements. Lane is seventh of the 36 counties to hit the low-risk category.
Once the state collectively hits the 70% vaccination benchmark, it can reopen entirely, Gov. Kate Brown said. The state will eliminate its protocols and will instead abide by the Centers for Disease Control guidance, which is less restrictive than Oregon’s protocols, Davis said. It will not require masks and face coverings in almost all settings, with some exceptions following federal guidance.
And while county officials celebrate reaching the milestone, they are also setting their sights on obtaining true herd immunity within the county to avoid increased case counts.
“Our work is not complete. We have many more doses to deliver to achieve true community immunity,” Berney said. “Ultimately we hope to top 290,000 vaccinated in the county,” or 75% of the county’s population. “We know that we will see more cases of COVID-19 again this fall and winter.”
OHA Director Pat Allen advised that COVID-19 is still a threat to those who are not vaccinated. “There isn’t one pandemic in Oregon. There are two: One is a pandemic that is dying out among people who are vaccinated. And the other is a pandemic that is raging as fiercely as ever among people who are unvaccinated,” Allen said, noting that between March 1 and May 31, 98% of COVID-19 cases and 94% of COVID-19 associated deaths were among those not fully vaccinated.
By presstime, the county reported 13,705 total cases; 21 hospitalized and six in the intensive care unit; 116 currently infectious; and 155 deaths.
The county is wrapping up its mass vaccination events on June 19 at Autzen Stadium, and is focusing on pop-up events in smaller settings. Upcoming vaccination events include:
Thursday, June 10: Springfield LTD bus station, 2-5 p.m. Pfizer and J&J.
Friday, June 11: Springfield LTD bus station, 2 – 5 p.m., Pfizer and J&J.
Saturday, June 12: Harrison Elementary School,1000 Taylor Ave, Cottage Grove, 5-8 p.m., Pfizer boost + J&J.
Berney called getting the vaccine a “patriotic duty” because doing so means that the county can reach its goal and “the State of Oregon reopens and we are done with this thing.”