Oregon governor extends COVID state of emergency declaration

December 21, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday extended Oregon’s declaration of a state of emergency as health officials prepare for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks.

The emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued throughout the pandemic, including orders surrounding reopening Oregon, vaccine mandates, childcare, liability protections for schools and higher education operations.

Brown said the declaration is necessary in order to provide resources for the state’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts — allowing for the use of volunteer medical providers in hospitals and at vaccination clinics, providing flexibility around professional health licensing and ensuring that the state has access to federal disaster relief funds.

The governor reviews and reevaluates each of her emergency orders every 60 days, to determine whether those orders should be continued, modified, or rescinded.

ADVERTISEMENT

“As Oregon prepares for what could be our worst surge in hospitalizations during this pandemic, I know that this is not the beginning of the new year any of us had hoped for,” Brown said.

Last Friday during a news conference, local scientists predicted the state is about three weeks away from a new wave of hospitalizations that could surpass the peak by two or three times. The Oregon Health Authority reported the state’s first three omicron cases last week.

Officials say the threat that the highly transmissible omicron variant poses is “deeply troubling and demoralizing,” especially as hospitals continue to struggle with staffing shortages and limited available beds due to the surge caused by the delta variant.

As of Monday, 352 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in Oregon. There were only 82 available adult intensive care unit beds and 93% of the state’s adult non-ICU beds are full.

__

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.