PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — For most of the year Oregonians have faced challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday people finally caught a glimpse of the "light at the end of this long tunnel."
In the past week thousands of Oregon healthcare workers were vaccinated, weekly coronavirus cases decreased and on Monday Oregon lawmakers passed COVID-19 related bills that include $800 million in relief to people struggling from the pandemic and wildfires.
“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," Brown said. "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.”
Last week Oregon received a total of 35,100 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and 4,475 people were vaccinated. This week Oregon health officials expect an additional 97,450 Pfizer and Moderna doses of the vaccine.
“In case anyone has doubts, Oregon wants as much vaccine as possible as soon as we can get it," Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, said Tuesday. "We believe every adult Oregonian should be immunized against this potentially deadly virus.”
While Oregon health care workers have already begun to be vaccinated, Gov. Brown said this week the vaccines will also be administered to long-term care residents and staff.
“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,” Brown said.
In addition, Brown said that teachers, school staff and child care providers “must be at the top of the list in Oregon’s next round of vaccines.”
“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,” Brown said.
Lawmakers also played a part in the step towards students' returning to in person school by voting in favor of a bill Monday that protects schools from some coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The three other bills that lawmakers passed during Monday's one-day special legislative session were an eviction moratorium that includes $200 million in relief for landlords and tenants, a restaurant relief package that includes a provision legalizing cocktails to-go, a bill that protects schools from some coronavirus-related lawsuits and a measure that will transfer $600 million in to the state’s emergency fund for COVID-19 and wildfire-response and recovery.
“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,” Brown said. “It will help carry us through the coming months as we continue to gain traction with our vaccine campaign.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the Oregon Health Authority has reported more than 103,755 coronavirus cases. The death toll is 1,347.
Last week's Oregon's case count decreased by 11% from the week before, officials said.
And while health officials say the arrival of the vaccines, decrease in cases and added safety nets for those struggling during the pandemic, Oregonians must continue to follow COVID-19 related safety measures, especially during the upcoming holidays.
“I know it’s hard as we approach Christmas and New Year’s. But in a time of pandemic, we’ve all learned how a joyous gathering can have life-altering consequences," Allen said. "Don’t let the memories of this holiday turn into painful regrets because a gathering led to a tragic outbreak.”
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 newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.