COVID-19 cases climb in Malheur County

The Malheur County Health Department reported an uptick of virus cases locally Monday. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – The Malheur County Health Department reported Monday that local COVID-19 cases jumped by more than 50 percent over the past seven days.

The health department reported 19 positive COVID-19 cases and two presumptive cases for a total of 21.

The latest cases are a man in his 20s and a female 19 or younger.

Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director, said she is not sure, based on the data, what the sudden climb in cases means.

“It is difficult to predict what the trajectory is going to be. The more we do testing the more you’d expect the positive percentage to go down. We want to see it start going down,” said Poe.

The jump in cases comes after no new infections were reported by the health department for the week ending May 10. On that date, the county reported 13 COVID-19 virus cases.

The county reported one new case May 11, two new cases May 13, two on May 15, one case May 16 and the new cases Monday.

The county reported its first case of the virus March 30.

Still, Poe said the sudden increase isn’t a surprise based on the fact more testing is going on and the spread of the virus throughout the community.

“We know there will be an increase in cases,” said Poe. “With the stay-at-home order lifted and more people going out we do know that comes with an increased risk of cases.”

A more worrying scenario, said Poe, would be a sudden surge of cases spread out across the county that could not be traced to a specific source.

“That means the potential spread has increased,” said Poe.

Poe said most of the recent cases in Malheur County are connected. 

As of Monday, certain age groups show the most virus cases. There are six cases in the 20 to 29 age group, and five in the 30 to 39 and 40 to 49 age range.

That isn’t a surprise, said Poe.

“Those are who are out and about. I would be more concerned if we saw more elderly cases,” said Poe.

Poe said she doesn’t believe the new cases will impact the partial reopening of the county, which occurred last week.

“It is our intent to try to keep us open and moving forward but we have to make sure we are safe to do so,” said Poe.

Poe said it will be “several weeks” before officials can measure the impact of reopening on new COVID-19 virus cases.

“It will just take time because it takes time for the virus to transmit and for people to get connected to testing and care,” said Poe.

Monday, the health department listed two cases in the 50 to 59 age group and one case in those aged 60 to 69. There is one case in the 80 and over age range and no cases have been confirmed in the 70 to 79 age group.

The health department completed two testing site events – in Nyssa and Vale – last week. The health department tested 28 people in Nyssa and 24 in Vale, said Poe.

The results from the Nyssa testing site could be available as early as Tuesday, said Poe, while the Vale results are expected back Thursday.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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