Vaccine eligibility expanded Monday

Lincoln County will be moved up one COVID-19 risk level Friday.

Florence Pourtal, deputy director of Lincoln County Public Health, told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting Monday there’d been sufficient cases during the previous 14 days to reclassify the county as moderate risk, the second lowest in the state’s four-tiered system based on a county’s infection and positivity rates.

The two-week case rate March 7 to 20 was 78.7 per 100,000 residents, putting it above the 50 per 100,000 case rate at the top end of the lower risk category. Pourtal said the health department had not yet been notified by the Oregon Health Authority of a change in risk level, and she hoped the county might be given the two-week observation period Gov. Kate Brown announced March 4.

But on Tuesday, the governor’s office announced that Lincoln would be among three lower risk counties reclassified as moderate on March 26. The change in business restrictions between those levels is relatively minor — restaurants can stay at 50 percent capacity for indoor dining, indoor recreational, fitness and entertainment facilities can stay at 50 percent, and retail stores remain at 75 percent capacity.

Outdoor dining capacity is lowered from a maximum of 300 people to 150, the same reduction seen at outdoor recreation, fitness and entertainment facilities; faith institutions have capacity reduced from 75 percent to 50 indoors; and at-home social gatherings are limited to eight people from two households indoors and 10 outdoors, down from 10 people from four households indoors and 12 people outdoors.

Pourtal told commissioners Monday there’d been 50 new COVID cases during March, and seven outbreaks were investigated in association with those cases, the largest of which involved 10 infections. Outbreaks were investigated at a birthday party, a sports practice and a restaurant, Pourtal said, and some of the outbreaks were linked to others.

The deputy public health director said it was “fair to say” that the rise in cases was attributable to local activity, rather than visitors.

News on the vaccine front continued to be hopeful, Pourtal said. Lincoln is one of 11 counties authorized to move ahead with the next level of eligibility on Monday, March 22, seven days early. Migrant, agricultural and food processing workers; people between the ages of 45 and 64 with certain underlying health conditions; houseless persons; and people displaced by September wildfires are now eligible.

Just less than 15,000 people in Lincoln County received at least one dose as of Monday, giving the county Oregon’s third highest vaccination rate. Between public health, Samaritan Health Services, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue, Siletz Community Health Clinic and area pharmacies, more than 2,800 first doses are expected for local administration this week.

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