ONTARIO – Malheur County hit an unhealthy milestone on Sunday, cresting 100 cases of Covid while recording a near doubling in infections in about a week, according to data released by the Malheur County Health Department.
The amount of testing for the coronavirus jumped substantially last week, but so did the percentage of people found infected.
The surge in numbers comes as Gov. Kate Brown warned Oregonians over the weekend that the economy may have to be locked down again if infections continue to spread.
The county recorded a climbing case count last week, going from a total of 50 dating back to March to 101 by Sunday. Covid is showing up particularly in the county’s younger population.
Only one person remained hospitalized for treatment and four others have been treated and released over the course of the pandemic, according to county data.
The county last week also saw a surge in testing, with 332 tests administered for the week ending June 27. The prior week, 149 tests were conducted.
While more testing was expected to reveal more infected people, the county saw a jump in the percentage of people who are testing positive. On Sunday, 7% of those tested were infected. The rate, which had been hovering around 4% in the prior week, steadily climbed in recent days, according to county data.
Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department, said Sunday that no single large source of infections, such as a particular workplace, had emerged. She said work over the weekend by contact tracers may reveal such a source, she said.
No neighboring county has shown such an increase, according to Oregon Health Authority data. Baker and Grant counties each have so far reported one case and Lake County has 13 cases. Union County has a total of 322, with most attributed to an outbreak at a church that was holding in-person services.
Statewide there have been 8,341 cases and nearly eight out of 10 have not required hospital care, according to state health authorities.
In Malheur County, free drive-up testing clinics are scheduled through July, with the next one set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, at the Malheur County Fairgrounds in Ontario.
The county health department is particularly urging those in vulnerable populations to get tested even if they have no symptoms of Covid.
"The reason people are encouraged to be tested, even without symptoms, is because of the disparities experienced by groups that have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic," the agency said in a statement. "In an effort to provide equitable care, more access to testing is needed for those who experience health, economic, and social conditions that put them at higher risk for contracting the virus and of developing more severe illness or death."
The statement noted that the infection rate statewide for Hispanics is 37 per 10,000 population while for whites it is seven per 10,000 population.
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