SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown has extended Oregon's COVID-19 state of emergency as the state prepares for what could leaders believe could potentially be the worst surge of cases and hospitalizations yet, driven by the rapidly-spreading omicron variant.
The state of emergency has been extended until June 30, 2022, unless extended further or rescinded by the governor.
The state of emergency allows greater flexibility to implement a number of response and recovery resources. That includes deploying SERV-OR volunteer medical providers to hospitals, which by law can only be activated during a governor-declared emergency, and greater flexibility for state licensing boards around professional health licensing. It also ensures Oregon can continue to access federal disaster relief funds, according to the emergency declaration, like enhanced SNAP benefits.
While early data indicates people who are vaccinated still have protection from severe illness, the fear is increased transmissibility could lead to even more hospitalized patients than Oregon saw during the delta wave, when the state's hospital system was pushed to the brink of collapse.
"Even for those who will not be made seriously ill by COVID-19, threats to hospital capacity impact us all," the executive order states.
“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,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “Time and again over the last two years, Oregonians have proven that we will stand with each other in our most difficult times. Your actions have saved lives, and it is because we have worked together to keep each other safe that Oregon still has some of the lowest infection and mortality rates in the nation."
The governor again pleaded with people to get vaccinated and mask up.
"My goals remain the same: to save lives, support doctors, nurses, and health care workers, and keep Oregon businesses, schools, and communities open," Gov. Brown says in the executive order.