Umatilla County continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases, announcing 32 new confirmed cases and 21 presumptive cases on June 23, bringing the county’s total to 313 confirmed cases so far, with 171 recovered.

The county had 174 confirmed cases one week prior, on June 16.

In an interview with the East Oregonian last week, Umatilla County Public Health Director Joe Fiumara said the county’s contact tracing efforts have traced many cases back to people going to work despite knowingly experiencing minor symptoms of COVID-19. He urged people to stay home from work if they are sick, rather than expose their co-workers.

The Oregon Health Authority reported an outbreak connected to Lamb Weston’s Hermiston plant on June 23, with 37 cases connected to the plant through a combination of workers testing positive and close contacts of those workers.

Fiumara also said graduation parties are showing up as another source of infection, but that those cases have been difficult to track because some people are refusing to share the names of family and friends who attended.

Umatilla County’s percentage of tests coming back positive is higher than all but one of Oregon’s counties.

As of June 21, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s reporting, 3.5% of COVID-19 tests in the state have come back positive. In Umatilla County, 10.2% of tests have come back positive, putting the county in second place behind Union County’s 20.8% and one spot above Morrow County’s 9.8%.

Morrow County is also seeing an increase in cases. As of June 23, the county had reported 36 confirmed cases. Morrow County also reported its first death, of a 53-year-old man with underlying health conditions who tested positive on June 12 and died June 18.

“This is an incredibly sad announcement and one that we had hoped not to make in Morrow County,” the county stated in a news release. “We encourage everyone to be respectful as a family in our community grieves.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underlying conditions that put people at higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications include chronic lung diseases, asthma, obesity with a body mass index of 40 or higher, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, being a smoker, and conditions that cause people to be immunocompromised, such as HIV, bone marrow transplants or taking immunity-weakening medications.

People over the age of 65 are also considered at high risk.

Statewide, on June 23 the Oregon Health Authority reported the state had reached a total of 7,274 cases and 192 deaths.

Nationally, on June 23 the CDC reported 2.3 million cases and more than 120,000 deaths from the virus.

The Oregon Health Authority’s advice for avoiding the spread of COVID-19 includes minimizing nonessential trips outside the home, staying 6 feet apart from other people, washing hands and sanitizing surfaces frequently, isolating at home when experiencing symptoms and wearing a mask over your nose and mouth in public.

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