City Hall Mask

A sign outside of Hermiston’s temporary city hall advises people to wear a mask on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.

Umatilla County reported six new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

The number brings the county to 55 new cases in the seven days from Sept. 16-22. As of Sept. 22 Umatilla County Public Health reported there were 152 presumptive cases in the county, defined as people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 after being exposed to someone who tested positive, but has not received a test result.

The county reported one resident was hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sept. 22, and a total of 41 residents have died after testing positive for the virus. The most recent COVID-19 death reported was a 97-year-old woman with underlying conditions, who died Sept. 8 at Regency Hermiston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Hermiston has had the most cases of COVID-19 in the county since the pandemic began, according to the Oregon Health Authority, with 1,512 confirmed cases.

In order to meet the Oregon Department of Education’s metrics to reopen schools in the county, Umatilla County must have no more than eight new cases of COVID-19 per week for three weeks in a row to bring all students back, and 24 cases a week to bring just kindergarten through third grade back, along with a test positivity rate of less than 5%.

About 15% of the county’s tests have come back positive in recent weeks. A total of 15,592 tests have been conducted on Umatilla County residents since the pandemic began, with 2,774 coming back positive, according to Umatilla County Public Health.

Umatilla County is beginning to lay the groundwork at its health department for the capacity to administer COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners approved expanding a nursing position at the health department to full time and the purchase of canopies that could be used for both drive-thru testing and vaccination events at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

“Drive-thru testing for COVID has become somewhat mainstream,” said Umatilla County Public Health Director Joe Fiumara. “As we are hoping for a vaccine to be coming out relatively soon, we’re trying to get ourselves in place and prepared for that to happen.”

Both moves made Sept. 16 can initially be used to bolster vaccination programs the health department already runs for the flu, Fiumara noted, and canopies may be especially necessary for trying to administer large-scale vaccination events during inclement weather this winter.

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