It’s that time of year when sunny skies and warmer weather motivate people to get out and enjoy their surroundings, spending time with family and friends and gathering with others at festivals or other events. Under normal conditions, that would be great, but we are not back to “normal.” The COVID pandemic is not yet over.
Forgive us for starting to sound like a broken record (for those of you who have grown up in the digital age, that’s an old reference to repeating the same thing over and over). But the truth of the matter is, we cannot yet let our guard down. In fact, the World Health Organization reported that more than 5.2 million new COVID cases were recorded globally last week — the most in a single week since the pandemic began. Deaths have also increased for the fifth straight week, according to WHO, with the pandemic now officially claiming more than 3 million lives worldwide.
Recently, Oregon has been reporting more daily COVID cases than it has in months. During a press conference held Friday morning, April 16, Gov. Kate Brown said, “It’s clear that this virus is persistent and stubborn. While we've flattened the curve again and again, COVID will not surrender.” A month ago, the state reported 1,920 new cases for the week of March 15-21. The first full week of April saw 3,722 new cases, a 94 percent increase.
And with many of the older generation now having received the vaccine, new COVID cases are shifting more and more to younger people.
In her remarks during last Friday’s press conference, the governor urged everyone to get a COVID shot as soon as they can. “Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself from serious illness and death. They are the best way to protect yourself from variants, and they are the key to unlocking the restrictions this pandemic has forced on us,” Brown said.
As of this week, everyone in Oregon ages 16 and over is eligible to receive the vaccine. The Moderna vaccine is for those ages 18 and older, and 16 and 17 years olds can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Lincoln County Public Health also reported this week that walk-ins are being allowed at some of the vaccine clinics, although people without an appointment aren’t guaranteed they will receive a shot.
Getting vaccinated really is our best chance of returning to some sense of normal life. But even after receiving the vaccine, people shouldn’t expect to dump the face masks or stop social distancing anytime soon, at least not in Oregon. In fact, Oregon’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health is considering extending rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses in the state. The current rules are set to lapse on May 4, and Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA, says keeping the rules in place is necessary because “we are not out of the woods yet.”
Predictably, the idea of continuing these requirements has been met with angry responses and cries of government overreach, and we get that. Yes, we’re all tired of the masks, and clearly patience is wearing thin. But we also believe our best chance to finally reach an end point is to keep up the fight against the virus. One step forward and two steps back isn’t going to cut it. We need to hang in there for a bit longer.