ONTARIO – Malheur County reported its first hospitalized case of the COVID-19 virus Monday.

The individual, an elderly woman over the age of 80, is being treated in a Boise hospital, according to Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director. The woman didn’t contract the virus at a care center, said Poe, but other details about how she became infected weren’t available.

The woman is one of four new county COVID-19 cases since Friday, pushing the number of people testing positive for the virus since late March to 38. According to the health department, 28 people have recovered from the COVID-19 virus and 967 tests have been administered.

The new cases, Poe said, underscores the resilience of the virus in the community.

“I think the chances of us having many more cases is high,” said Poe.

That’s because, she said, the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Kate Brown in March slashed the overall state rate of positive COVID-19 cases.

Brown approved a request by the county to move into Phase 2 of a COVID-19 virus reopening plan June 5.

“There is a risk when we reopen and people are gathering. The risk of transmission is so much higher. That’s why we are asking people to be mindful on how they can reduce the risk,” said Poe.

Poe said health officials aren’t sure of the origins of the new infections.

“A case investigation has started,” said Poe.

Poe said quashing the spread of the virus rests in large part on the community.

“We really need everyone to be following the guidance that keeps us safe. This is the time to still be very vigilant. It is very common to be able to pass the virus two days before the onset of symptoms,” said Poe.

Poe said she is concerned about four positives COVID-19 cases in four days.

“Can we handle four new cases in four days? Yes. We’ve had nine cases in a week. But it is worrisome because often times we are only seeing such a small fraction of the potential exposure,” said Poe. 

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VIDEO: Director of Malheur County Health Department discusses phase two reopening 

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