Governor Kate Brown announced Tuesday that Lincoln County will be moving permanently to the low-risk level Friday, May 21, along with four other counties.
Lincoln joins Benton, Deschutes, Hood River and Washington counties in moving to low-risk for meeting their vaccination target of 65 percent.
“This is an extraordinary achievement for our community. It has happened because of the efforts of our county Public Health program, Samaritan, the Siletz Tribal Clinic, and others,” Lincoln County Commissioner Claire Hall said. “It’s happened because of the hundreds of volunteers who have made our vaccination clinics smoothly functioning operations. And it’s happened because two thirds of our adults haven’t given in to hype, fear and lies and have understood that being vaccinated is the best means they have to protect themselves and others.”
According to Lincoln County Health & Human Services, 65.1 percent of Lincoln County residents aged 16 and older have been vaccinated, meeting the goal to move to low-risk. 26,997 individuals’ vaccination record has been entered into the State of Oregon’s ALERT system and 558 people have been vaccinated by a federal organization, such as the Veteran’s Administration.
Lincoln County and the State of Oregon want to hit 70 percent vaccinated by the end of June, and 80 percent by the end of summer. Clinics will be held weekly in Lincoln County in an attempt to meet those goals.
Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released updated guidance Tuesday about mask and physical distancing requirements for individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In most public places where vaccination status is checked, masks will not be required. If vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required. OHA officials said business owners are still free to establish their own, more restrictive policies for mask usage.
Restrictions are still in place for Lincoln County, with restaurants, gyms, indoor entertainment, and outdoor parks limited to 50 percent capacity. Retail stores and malls can operate at 75 percent capacity. Limited office work is now also available.
The two Samaritan Health Services hospitals located in Lincoln County persevered through the pandemic and were fortunate to never have more than a few patients at any given time hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 over the past 14 months. Elective health care services – that is, non-emergency medical needs – were paused for a period of time last year, but the hospitals in Lincoln City and Newport and their associated clinics have been open to 100% capacity for all types of medical care for the past several months.
Visitor restrictions, screening procedures and facemask requirements have been in place throughout the pandemic – and those are still in place despite the newly lowered risk status. Appropriate facemasks and screening are still required to enter any Samaritan facility.
“I am thrilled that our collaborative efforts to host vaccination clinics have resulted in a high percentage of county residents receiving the vaccine. We hope that our county residents now understand the direct link between becoming vaccinated and opening our economy back up permanently, so we hope even more will get the shot,” said Lesley Ogden, MD, CEO of both Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital and Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital. “Even if you have been vaccinated, we encourage everyone to continue following health protocols that will keep them and others safe. This past year has been stressful for our staff and volunteers, our patients and visitors, but we encourage everyone to continue to be respectful and safe.”