By GARY A. WARNER
Oregon Capital Bureau
SALEM -- A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases will likely push at least 12 Oregon counties into the extreme risk level April 30, requiring the most severe restrictions the state can impose on businesses and activities, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday.
Oregon reported more than 1,000 new infections on Friday, a mark that puts the state second in the nation for the rate of increase of new COVID-19 cases.
More than 300 people are hospitalized with the virus, which health officials have set as a key threshold for emergency action.
The counties that currently meet the extreme risk level numbers are Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Linn, Marion, and Polk.
The restrictions would go into effect Friday, April 30. There will be no "warning week" as is usual with changes in risk levels, which delayed restrictions for a week.
"This is your warning," Brown said.
The "fourth surge" of the pandemic will be different, offering some hopeful news to state residents and businesses.
There is now enough Moderna and Pfizer two-shot vaccine for most people in the state. The vaccination has reached three out of four people 65 and older, which means that the current spike will lead to fewer deaths among the most vulnerable age group in the population.
"This time will be different," said Dr. Renee Edwards, chief medical officer at Oregon Health Science University and advisor to Brown.
Edwards said the restrictions would likely be needed for no more than three weeks, when the increasing vaccination levels will cap the usual exponential growth of the COVID-19 that marked the rate of illness during past surges.
Brown said the state's portion of the $1.9 trillion in federal aid recently approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden will be used to soften the economic impact of the impact of restrictions on businesses.
Brown said she expected that all college students in Oregon will be required to get vaccinated, but wasn't ready to order it.
"I'd want to talk to the universities and community colleges first," she said.