Umatilla and Morrow counties will both remain in the state’s “extreme risk” category for COVID-19 for at least another 14 days, according to the update report released by Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

The announcement means the state will continue to prohibit indoor dining and other activities considered high risk.

Mayor David Drotzmann added his signature to a letter dated Friday, Jan. 22, from leaders in Umatilla County, asking Gov. Kate Brown to allow restaurants to reopen in the county, despite not fitting the state’s metrics for doing so. The letter stated that COVID-19 numbers in the county continued to rise after indoor dining was closed in November 2020, and said such a closure had likely encouraged people to gather together in homes instead of discouraging them from gathering.

“Perhaps Umatilla County could be named as an experimental pilot project for the State’s entire restaurant industry,” the letter suggested.

According to Umatilla County Public Health’s regional dashboard, in the seven days between Jan. 20-26, Umatilla County added 225 new cases of COVID-19 and Morrow County added 26 new cases. Morrow County did not have any new deaths, but Umatilla County reported six new deaths of county residents with COVID-19 during the past week.

The death totals do not include all deaths at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, where a total of 13 inmates with COVID-19 have died since the beginning of January.

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