One-third of county Covid tests were positive last week

Kraft Heinz food processing plant in Ontario on Monday, July 14. State officials on Wednesday, July 15, reported an outbreak of the coronavirus among its employees. (Rachel Parsons/The Enterprise)

ONTARIO – One-third of every local Covid test administered last week was positive, according to new data the Malheur County Health Department released Wednesday.

The data covers the week of July 6 through July 12 and exposes a grim paradigm where the local Covid virus outbreak is rapidly spinning out of control.

The data showed the positive testing rate – 180 positive tests, 356 negative tests for a total of 536 – in the county leaped to 33.6%.

The report included the data from Snake River Correctional Institution, where 120 positives came from a total of 180 results as of July 12.

The health department reported 466 Covid cases – including 17 new ones – in the county Wednesday.

The health department completed a total of 2,981 Covid tests as of Wednesday. Of those, 2,515 were negative. There have been five local deaths connected to Covid and 73 people reported recovered. According to the health department two people are currently hospitalized for treatment of Covid.

The highest number of cases are in the 20 to 29 age group with 97.

“It’s really, really bad,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.

Poe said of the 17 new cases Wednesday, ten of them were either young adults or children.

“It is imperative we understand this virus is spreading among all ages but it is actively spreading among the young and that impacts our most vulnerable. We are also seeing people who are having severe cases requiring hospitalizations that are not elderly,” said Poe.

(Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

Also, the state reported Wednesday six new Covid infections at the Kraft Heinz Company facility in Ontario through July 9.

“The employees in our Ontario factory that tested positive for Coronavirus are in self-quarantine at home with full pay. We have taken all necessary steps to identify and notify individuals who worked closely with this,” said Michael Mullen, a company spokesman.

The Brookdale Ontario senior living facility has had one Covid death, the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday night. The facility also has six more cases than last week, for a total of 32. 

A state record from July 1 said the facility had a census of 41. 

The facility was restricting visitors, requiring masks and hiring extra staff by April 30, according to a Department of Human Services Covid-preparation inspection. They used a hospital-grade disinfectant on counters, drawers, doorknobs and handrails, and had enough gloves, face masks and other equipment.

The inspection listed no causes for follow-up.

Poe said the health department is contact tracing a large amount of people with possible exposure to Covid but the process is time-consuming.

“I contact traced just one case and it took me several hours because there were almost ten people contacted. One case, 10 people were exposed that were within six feet with multiple households and it takes quite a bit of time to do that,” said Poe.

Poe said many of the Covid cases can be traced to “social gatherings, cruising, bars, parties and gatherings of friends.”

“I don’t know what to say at this point except its really bad and people need to act as if they are potentially infected and those around them are too,” said Poe.

Earlier Wednesday, the Malheur County Court approved a resolution to limit local indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The resolution stipulates no group of 10 or more individuals are to socially gather indoors and no group of 25 or more individuals are to gather outdoors. Groups of less than 10 people who gather indoors are to wear face coverings, observe social distancing guidelines and keep six feet apart. Groups of less than 25 people gathering outdoors are to wear face coverings and observer social distancing guidelines.

The county resolution will run until Aug. 5.

(Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or at 541-235-1005.


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