Umatilla County hit a record new number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 on Tuesday, June 30, according to Umatilla County Public Health.
The county health department announced that eight Umatilla County residents with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized. Overall, as of June 30, the county has had a total of 482 confirmed cases and currently has 42 presumptive cases. According to the county, 267 people have recovered and there are 252 active cases when counting both confirmed and presumptive.
The health department currently defines a presumptive case as someone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and is now showing symptoms, but their test results have not yet come back.
On Monday, June 29, the county reported its fifth death of a COVID-19 patient. The patient was a 74-year-old man with underlying health conditions who tested positive on June 21 and died at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston on June 26.
“We recognize that we are in a very abnormal situation with an unknown endpoint and as such, increased stress, fear and anxiety among Umatilla County residents is to be expected,” the department stated in a news release. “UCo Health encourages Umatilla County residents to continue to prioritize your physical and mental health during this time.”
The department continues to warn residents that many cases of COVID-19 are being traced to workplaces, and that no one should go into work while experiencing any symptoms of the virus. The county has also urged employers to not pressure employees to come in while sick.
On June 29, Shearer’s Foods announced that six employees of its Hermiston processing plant have tested positive for COVID-19.
“The safety of the Shearer’s products, employees, and community remains their top priority,” the news release stated. “As a result, the facility will be closed for 24 hours to conduct a deep cleaning of all equipment based on CDC guidelines and using EPA-approved registered products for COVID-19.”
The company stated that all employees would continue to receive their pay and benefits during the shutdown and if they needed to quarantine. Employees who worked in close contact with those who tested positive have been notified and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
According to the company, the employees who got sick were not in contact with products at the facility and “there is no food safety risk.” The company will continue to take temperatures of employees arriving at work, require social distancing, practice increased sanitation and require personal protective equipment.
On June 26, when Umatilla County’s hospitalizations reached six people, Good Shepherd Health Care System announced it was reinstating its incident command system used for emergencies.
“We have temporarily moved our Treatment Center and Good Shepherd Cancer Center services to the Day Surgery wing in our Surgical Services Department and the original space those services occupied on Unit C is now a dedicated COVID-19 unit,” CEO Dennis Burke said in a statement.
According to a news release, the unit has 12 beds for COVID-19 patients, and four more can be added temporarily to the surgical unit for overflow. Burke said Good Shepherd is “judiciously monitoring” personal protective equipment and other supplies to make sure the hospital will be prepared in the event of an influx of patients.
Patients can continue to expect to be screened before entering buildings, to see social distancing maintained inside and to be limited to one visitor per person in most cases where the patient does not have COVID-19. Education classes continue to be online, and the pharmacy and home medical equipment shop continue to offer curbside pickup or free home delivery.
The treatment center and cancer center are in a temporary location in the surgical services department on the main floor of the hospital near the day surgery entrance.
In response to what she said was an “alarming rate” of spread in both urban and rural counties, Gov. Kate Brown announced on Monday, June 29 that starting Wednesday, July 1, all Oregon residents over the age of 12 will be required to wear a covering over their nose and mouth in indoor public spaces, such as stores, gyms, restaurants and public transportation. The covering can take the form of a mask or a clear plastic face shield.
The state is putting the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, in charge of enforcement of the rules rather than police.
“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Brown said in a statement. “The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter ... If we all wear face coverings, practice six feet of physical distancing in public, wash our hands regularly, and stay home when we are sick, then we can avoid the worst-case scenarios that are now playing out in other states.”
She said she did not want to have to close down businesses again as some states have started to do when their hospitals near capacity, and said that if Oregonians don’t want to see local shops and restaurants closed they can help prevent that by wearing a mask and social distancing.
“Please keep your Fourth of July celebrations small and local,” she said. “We saw a lot of new COVD-19 cases following the Memorial Day holiday. Another spike in cases after the upcoming holiday weekend could put Oregon in a dangerous position.”
The Oregon Health Authority will hold a live question and answer session about the mask requirement on its Facebook page at 12:30 p.m. on July 1, which will also be available for viewing afterward.
As of June 30, OHA had reported 8,656 cases of COVID-19 and 207 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported more than 2.58 million cases and 126,739 deaths nationwide.