A nurse on one side of the drive through counts 14 tests that had been completed by 11:30 a.m. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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ONTARIO – The Malheur County Health Department reported Friday two more county residents tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, pushing the county’s total to 12 and doubling in less than a week the number of local cases of the respiratory disease.

Thursday, county health authorities reported three new cases of the respiratory illness.

The two new cases reported Friday include a woman in her 50s and a man in his 20s. Neither are hospitalized, according to Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.

The county reported its first case on March 30, and then single cases on April 2, April 10, April 11, April 15, and April 23.

So far this week, the county reported one case on Sunday, one on Wednesday, two on Thursday and two more on Friday.

The county also released testing data, showing the percent of positive tests coming back from those tested for the coronavirus has been going up. On Sunday, April 26, 3% of those tested were found infected. On Friday, May 1, 4.4% of those tested were positive.

Since testing started in March, 259 people have tested negative for COVID-19. The latest results don’t include testing done at a special drive-through clinic held in Ontario on Wednesday, April 29.

The increasing cases came as Gov. Kate Brown said more testing across Oregon will be necessary before she will start easing COVID-19 virus restrictions. Brown said at a news conference on Friday that some rural areas may see eased restrictions as soon as May 15.

Poe said before Malheur County reopens, local COVID-19 cases must stabilize.

“I want to emphasize that I understand people are really struggling and I know that this has caused many hardships. However, this is not the time to let up on social distancing and mitigation measures that have helped keep the curve steady,” said Poe.

Poe said her fear “is that because we’ve seen an increase in cases around us people have not stayed home as much as possible.”

Ontario’s proximity to Idaho may play a role in the sudden boost in local cases, said Poe.

“In some ways, it is not entirely unexpected because we’ve also seen a surge in cases in Canyon, Ada and Payette counties. As Idaho comes to our county and our county goes into Idaho, as a border community those cases impact our numbers,” said Poe.

Idaho reported 2,036 COVID-19 cases – including 20 new cases – and 63 deaths Friday.

Oregon reported 2,579 COVID-19 cases Friday.

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