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PORTLAND — Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon’s declaration of a state of emergency until May 2 as confirmed COVID-19 cases drop but hundreds of new cases continue to be reported daily.

“Throughout the pandemic, Oregonians have made smart choices that have protected our families and loved ones,” Brown said. “Our infection and mortality rates have consistently remained some of the lowest in the country. And, for the first time, COVID-19 critical care units are seeing fewer and fewer patients.”

The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported 553 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 154,554. The state’s death toll is 2,204.

The agency’s weekly COVID-19 report, which was released Wednesday, shows a sharp decreases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week.

The emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued, including her orders surrounding reopening Oregon, childcare, schools and higher education operations. Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect. The governor reviews and reevaluates each of her emergency orders every 60 days.

“As we vaccinate thousands of Oregonians each day and reopen more school buildings and businesses as safely as possible, now is not the time to let up our guard. New, more infectious COVID-19 variants are circulating in the United States, including several confirmed cases in Oregon.”

Oregon Republican senators refused to show up to Thursday’s floor session, objecting to the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions and handling of reopening schools, vaccine rollout and economic recovery.

In a statement from Senate Republicans, the lawmakers said, “Despite declining case counts, today you extended your emergency declaration, squeezing Oregonians even more. The Legislature cannot do its work to help Oregonians recover when people cannot go back to work because of orders requiring small businesses to stay closed.”

As case counts have improved, the governor announced that 16 counties, including Marion County where the Capitol is, will be moving to lower risk levels — allowing increased capacity for indoor dining and gyms. The new risk levels go into effect Friday.

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