Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decision Thursday to re-impose Umatilla County to its home state after it became known of the alarmingly high coronavirus spread in Hermiston, loved by University researchers Oregon State.
A random sampling of Hermiston residents last Saturday and Sunday found that 41 of 471 people – or 8.7% – tested positive for coronavirus.
The researchers later calculated that the actual prevalence was 17%, or 3,000 active infections in a city of about 18,000 residents.
“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’s findings Thursday during a briefing from top Oregon Health Authority leaders, who also shared other state-collected data points that showed persistent problems in the county. ‘Umatilla.
Coronavirus cases have increased in Umatilla County for a month and a half, pushing jurisdiction into the fourth majority of Oregon cases, despite having the 13th most resident. Cases are also escalating in neighboring Morrow County, forcing Brown to reopen in a Phase 1 reopening state.
The growth of cases in the Hermiston area had been well documented even before the last study, conducted by Oregon State University as part of its month-long project that began in Corvallis before moving to Bend. and Newport. State data showed that Hermiston’s zip code 97838 has regularly had a number of new cases since June.
“Our results indicate that the virus is widespread in Hermiston and more prevalent than previous data had indicated,” said Ben Dalziel, adjunct professor and co-director of the project.
It is unclear how many of the 41 people who tested positive during the OSU study had already been identified as positive and included in the numbers compiled by the Oregon Health Authority. The state has identified 1,902 residents of Umatilla County with suspected or suspected confirmed infections.
Dalziel told The Oregonian / OregonLive that participants who submit test samples are not asked if 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 were positive during the OSU project did not report having indicators of the virus. Participants receive a tampon to collect a sample from the nose.
Investigators also collected wastewater samples from Hermiston and Boardman in Morrow County, to monitor their spread. These also showed high levels of virus.
Hermiston Mayor David Drotzmann was alarmed by the findings.
“The results of this study are an important warning,” he said in a statement. “We now have a clearer picture of how many people carry this disease unknowingly and how quickly it is spreading from family to family, from home to home.”
– Brad Schmidt; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
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