Businesses, CORONAVIRUS, Washington County

Washington County will drop to ‘Lower Risk’ level on Friday, May 21

File photo: Chas Hundley

Washington County will move from the “High Risk” to the “Lower Risk” status on Friday, May 21 after meeting a 65% first-dose vaccination rate for those ages 16 and up, Governor Kate Brown announced after 4 p.m. on Tuesday. 

Washington County is among five counties that applied to move to the Lower Risk tier in the framework, a move that will significantly lessen restrictions on the number of people allowed in stores, restaurants, gyms, entertainment facilities, allow indoor contact sports to resume, allow churches and other religious activities to permit larger groups of people, and more.

The full list of county risk levels and the associated restrictions can be found here

The other counties that will see restrictions eased are Benton, Deschutes, Hood River, and Lincoln counties. Multnomah County opted not to seek the Lower Risk tier, despite likely meeting the threshold of enough vaccinations. 

“Vaccines protect you, and they protect everyone around you,” Brown said in a statement. “It’s going to take all of us working together to make sure enough Oregonians are vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and end this pandemic. I’d like to thank everyone in these counties, particularly their outstanding public health officials, health care workers, and volunteers who have led the way in making sure their communities are protected against COVID-19.”

The state’s numbers have shifted multiple times in the last few days, first due to a mistake by the Oregon Health Authority after inadvertently lumping those under age 16 who had received a dose of a vaccine into the 16-19 age range. Now, the numbers have shifted again in the county’s favor. 

“Preliminary data posted by the Oregon Health Authority on Monday did not include federal vaccine doses administered in counties,” a statement read. 

It was those doses that pushed Washington County into the green. The current statistics displayed by the OHA do not include the federal doses, and show the county still at 64.3% as of Tuesday morning. 

Each of the five counties moving to Lower Risk also submitted equity plans to the state to address vaccination gaps in ethnic and minority groups. 

The county’s plan to address equity gaps

“This plan outlines Washington County’s efforts to address the vaccination equity gap among communities of color and other underserved community members. We are committed to continuing and adjusting these efforts until we close the gap,” the opening statement of Washington County’s state-required plan reads. 

The ten-page document outlines how the county plans to and has been tackling the lower rate of vaccine adoption for several minority and ethnic groups. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents have the highest rate of vaccination at 55.1%, followed by Asian residents at 49.5%, white residents at 46.9%, American Indian/Alaska Native residents at 46.2%, Hispanic/Latinx residents at 33.3%, and Black residents at 31.7%, according to data compiled May 18 from the OHA.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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