Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s decision on Thursday to restore Umatilla County to “home” status came after learning of an alarmingly high spread of the coronavirus in Hermiston, reported by Oregon State researchers University was valued.
A random sample of Hermiston residents last Saturday and Sunday showed that 41 out of 471 people – or 8.7% – tested positive for coronavirus.
The researchers then calculated that the actual prevalence was 1
“This study confirms what we feared from weeks of worrying data from the Oregon Health Authority: the coronavirus has spread to Hermiston and threatens the entire community,” Brown said in a statement.
Brown learned of the study results on Thursday during a briefing from leading Oregon Health Authority officials who also exchanged other government-collected data points that indicate ongoing problems in Umatilla County.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Umatilla County for a month and a half, pushing jurisdiction over the fourth most common cases in Oregon, despite having the 13th population. The falls also climb in neighboring Morrow County, causing Brown to restore him to Phase 1 reopening.
The growth of cases in the Hermiston region was well documented even before the most recent study conducted by Oregon State University as part of their month-long project that started in Corvallis before moving to Bend and Newport. State data showed that Hermiston’s zip code 97838 has been one of the most new cases since June.
“Our results show that the Hermiston virus is extremely prevalent and more common than previously reported,” said Ben Dalziel, assistant professor and co-director of the project, in a statement.
It is not clear how many of the 41 people who tested positive during the OSU study were already tested positive and are included in the numbers compiled by the Oregon Health Authority. The state has identified 1,902 Umatilla County residents with confirmed or suspected infections.
Dalziel told The Oregonian / OregonLive that participants who submit test samples are not asked if they have already been tested or if they have tested positive for COVID-19.
However, researchers asked for symptoms, and four out of five Hermiston residents who tested positive during the OSU project said they had no indicators of the virus. Participants are given a swab to take a sample from their nose.
The researchers also collected samples from wastewater in Hermiston and Boardman in Morrow County to monitor the spread. These also showed high virus concentrations.
Hermiston Mayor David Drotzmann was alarmed by the results.
“The results of this study are an important warning,” he said in a statement. “We now have a clearer picture of how many people have this disease without knowing it and how quickly it spreads from family to family, from household to household.”
– Brad Schmidt; [email protected]; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
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