Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decision Thursday to push Umatila County to stay at home came after learning of the alarmingly high prevalence of coronavirus in Hermiston, calculated by researchers at Oregon State University.
A random sample of Hermiston residents found last Saturday and Sunday that 41 of 471 people – or 8.7% – tested positive for coronavirus.
Researchers subsequently estimated that the actual prevalence was 1
“This study confirms what we feared based on alarming data from the Oregon Health Department: The coronavirus has spread throughout Hermiston and threatens the entire community,” Brown said in a statement.
Brown learned of the results of the survey on Thursday during a briefing from top leaders in the Oregon Health Administration, who also shared other data collected by the state showing persistent problems in Umatila County.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Umatila County for a month and a half, pushing jurisdiction over the fourth-largest case in Oregon, despite having the 13th largest population. Cases also rise in neighboring Morrow County, prompting Brown to bring him back in a state of reopening phase.
The increase in cases in the Hermiston area was well documented even before the latest study conducted by Oregon State University as part of its monthly project, which began in Corvallis before moving to Bend and Newport. State data show that Hermiston’s zip code 97838 has regularly been among the most new cases since June.
“Our results show that the virus is extremely prevalent in Hermiston and is more prevalent than previous data,” said Ben Dalziel, assistant and co-director of the project.
It is not clear how many of the 41 people who tested positive during the OSU study have already been identified as positive and included in numbers compiled by the Oregon Health Administration. The state has identified 1,022 residents of Umatila County with confirmed or suspected infections.
Dalziel told The Oregonian / OregonLive that participants who submit test samples do not question whether they have already been tested or tested positive for COVID-19.
But researchers are asking about the symptoms, and four of the five Hermiston residents who tested positive during the OSU project did not report any evidence of the virus. Participants are given a swab to collect a sample from their nose.
Researchers also collected sewage samples from Hermiston and Boardman in Morrow County to monitor the spread. They also showed high levels of the virus.
Hermiston Mayor David Drotzman expressed concern about the findings.
“The results of this study are a significant warning,” he said in a statement. “We now have a clearer picture of how many people carry this disease without knowing it, and how quickly family to family, household to household, is spreading.”
– Brad Schmid; email@example.com; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
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