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State forecast projects continued slowdown in COVID-19 cases

A new forecast from the Oregon Health Authority released Friday showed a recent slowdown in the transmission of COVID-19 in the state, and also projected a drop in hospitalizations and daily cases through early June.

If the same level of recent transmission holds, state health officials estimated, the average number of daily cases would drop to 420 by June 1, with new hospitalizations decreasing to 17 within the same time frame.

If the level of transmission increases by 20%, the average daily number of cases would still decline, just more gradually, to an average of 590 new daily cases by June 1, with new hospitalizations decreasing to 26, the report showed.

“The people of Oregon have once again successfully stopped the rise in COVID-19 cases. Consistent with both of our scenario projections, forecasts compiled by the CDC suggest that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Oregon will continue to decrease in the month ahead,“ the report said.

The report added that vaccines are aiding in preventing further spread.

”Our projections assume that people will continue to get vaccinated at recent levels. With over 2 million Oregonians having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, we are on track to meeting Oregon’s goal to vaccinate 70% of those ages 16 and older by mid to late-June and removing the county risk level framework restrictions.“

New guidelines

The forecast comes on the heels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Thursday announcement that significantly eases masking and physical-distancing guidelines for individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown indicated Thursday that the state would follow the CDC guidance, saying in a video message posted on YouTube, “Oregonians who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces.”

Masking and physical-distancing requirements will remain in place for public transportation, hospitals, clinics, correctional facilities and long-term care facilities. Such requirements will also continue at schools, Brown said.

“In the coming days, OHA will be providing updated guidance for businesses, employers and others to allow the option of lifting mask and physical-distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status,” a Friday news release said.

Dr. Jim Shames, medical director for Jackson County Public Health, said he was generally pleased to hear about the CDC’s revised guidelines, but noted he wasn’t expecting such an abrupt messaging shift.

“I didn’t see it coming. I thought it would continue to be incremental adjustments in masking and distancing policy,” Shames said. “But, in fact, this is a pretty significant change.”

“What I think the CDC is saying is, ’The science suggests that your life can really mostly return to normal once you’ve been fully vaccinated,’” he added. “I’m glad that they’re feeling bold enough to take the positive science that they’re getting and make real changes for the public.”

The CDC reported more encouraging vaccination data Friday. A study showed health care workers who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reduced their risk of getting the illness by 94%.

On Friday, 1,552,152 Oregonians had completed their vaccine series, and 481,208 had received one shot in a two-dose regimen.

In Jackson County, 66,875 residents had completed their series, and 19,669 had recieved one of two doses, according to OHA data.

In Josephine County, 25,331 residents had completed their series, and 4,702 had received one of two doses.

COVID-19 vaccines became available Friday in Jackson County for youth ages 12 to 15.

Deaths, new cases and hospitalizations

The Oregon Health Authority reported 10 more deaths Friday from COVID-19, raising the state death toll to 2,582. Jackson County’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 139, Josephine county’s at 70.

OHA also reported 713 new cases, raising the state’s cumulative total to 194,542.

Jackson County reported 39 new cases, raising the county’s cumulative total to 10,901.

Josephine County reported 10 new cases, raising its cumulative total to 3,355.

Statewide, 337 COVID-19 patients were in a hospital Friday, 14 fewer than Thursday. In Jackson and Josephine counties, 22 patients were hospitalized with the illness, four fewer than Thursday.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanpfeil.