PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As the Portland Trail Blazers continue their run in the NBA Western Conference Playoff, Gov. Kate Brown announced on Monday that the Moda Center will debut vaccinated sections this week with increased capacity and fewer physical distancing restrictions.

Fans in vaccinated sections, who are 16 or older, must provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated. Fans not eligible will sit in areas where they must continue to physically distance. According to officials all fans will still be required to wear a mask.

“When fans left the Moda Center last March, it was one of the first signs this pandemic was about to change our lives in ways we hadn’t previously imagined,” Brown said. “Vaccines are the key to our return to normal life."

The Blazers are scheduled to host the Denver Nuggets for game three of the NBA Western Conference Playoff on Thursday and the fourth game of the series on Saturday. If necessary, game five and six would return to the Rose City in June. The Blazers are currently 1-0 in the series.

“If you haven’t gotten around to getting vaccinated yet, go do so today,” Brown said. “Don’t miss your shot to cheer on the Blazers as they make a run at a championship.”

Fans in vaccinated sections must provide proof in the form of the original or copy of their vaccination card. Non-vaccinated children, who are 15 or younger, can also sit in the vaccinated Sections with their parent or guardian.

In addition, Brown announced that businesses, venues and faith institutions in “lower risk” counties may follow suit with the Moda Center and create vaccinated sections.

Brown said vaccinated sections in businesses would not need to adhere to physical distancing, capacity limits or masking requirements.

Earlier this month, Brown set statewide and county COVID-19 vaccination targets, with the hope of reopening the state’s economy.

Brown said most statewide coronavirus related restrictions will be lifted when 70% of Oregon’s residents who are 16 years and older receive the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, Brown said.

Currently, more than half of Oregon’s eligible population who are 16 or older have received at least their first vaccine dose.

In addition, counties will be eligible to move into the “lower risk” category when 65% of the area’s eligible population is vaccinated.

Under the lower risk category, residents in the county can have indoor gatherings of 10 people or outdoor gatherings of 12 people. Restaurants, gyms and indoor and outdoor entertainment can open up to 50% capacity.

Currently five Oregon counties — Benton, Deschutes, Hood River, Lincoln and Washington — are in the state’s “lower risk” level category. Multnomah County, the state’s most populous county and home to Portland, submitted plans to reopen last week.


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 news