Malheur County reports second death tied to Covid; case surge continues

A woman in her 80s died Thursday in Boise hospital in what the Malheur County Health Department said was the county’s second Covid-related death.

The death occurred while the county is seeing a surge of Covid cases in recent weeks that county health authorities say is largely a result of community spread – when one infected person unwittingly infects another.

County officials released few details about the death, saying she had been tested positive for the coronavirus eight days before her death.

“Case investigators are diligently working on this case and the drastic surge in cases recently,” the health department said in its announcement. The agency said it “urges everyone to take precautions seriously to protect the spread of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable in our community.”

Meantime, state Corrections Department officials reported an increasing number of infections at Snake River Correctional Institution. The agency reported 15 employees and 13 inmates have tested positive.

The inmates are being cared for in the prison’s infirmary and are being treated with 24-hour care on a hydration drip if necessary, three meals a day or a liquid nutrition drip, oxygenation checks, and medication, said Dan Dewsnup, Department of Corrections infectious disease specialist.

The infirmary has a maximum capacity of 10, but the facility is finding overflow rooms. The staff in the infirmary also work in other parts of the prison, according to Jennifer Black, Corrections Department spokeswoman.

The prison tests inmates who display Covid symptoms, and normally cellmates of infected individuals. Employees are screened for symptoms and temperature before entering the prison to report for duty.

The prison has around 900 employees, and now has 2,915 inmates in quarantine.

Quarantine means the 80 inmates in each housing unit can’t all be outside their cells at once, and take turns occupying the dayroom, said Black. The quarantine will last for two weeks, unless another Covid case is found.

The prison cases contributed to a steadily climbing number of cases in the county, which as of Thursday evening totaled 287. The county added 21 cases Thursday and saw the rate of positive tests climb again, this time above 12%. The county in its reopening planning said that any rate over 5% would be cause for concern.

In other developments in recent days, the Oregon Health Authority announced five cases linked to a Nyssa education facility and 26 cases at the Brookdale Ontario senior living facility. Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero separately reported that he had four officers who had tested positive.

News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.


Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically. DONATE – to provide additional support.