As of noon today, July 31, Umatilla County in Oregon is being placed back under a stay-at-home ordered by Gov. Kate Brown. This is the first time Brown has reinstated restrictions for select counties after limitations began lifting May 15. The move does not come to a surprise to many, as many Oregonians expected her to take steps in closing small businesses, parks, and anything else considered non-essential by the governor.
“After weeks of trying other measures to get the disease under control, our only option is to temporarily close certain businesses and other community amenities,” said Brown in a July 30 statement. “I am hopeful that these measures will help the community control the spread of COVID-19 quickly.”
Starting immediately, restaurants in the rural county are expected to move to takeout and delivery only, with no dining in options available. Gyms, malls, venues, indoor and outdoor entertainment facilities such as bowling alleys, and personal services businesses will not be allowed to open under the new order. Playgrounds are also supposed to stay closed at this time. As we saw before across Oregon, grocery and retail stores, banks, and gas stations that are considered essential will stay open.
The closures come just on the heels of Umatilla County being in Phase 2 of reopening. Church gatherings are reported to be limited to 25, with social gatherings expected to be limited to no more than 10 people.
“COVID-19 has spread dramatically in both Umatilla and Morrow Counties for the past month,” Brown said in a statement. “My heart goes out to the families in Morrow County, Umatilla County and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation who have been impacted by this disease.
“If we do not act immediately, we could see the virus spread even more rapidly, infecting and killing more community members,” she said. “I know that this is difficult news for business owners and working families in the region.”
Brown’s office has provided a bullet point list of facts about the rural Oregon county, including:
*Umatilla County has more cases of COVID-19 per capita than any other Oregon county, at 234 cases per 10,000 people.
*The county has a weekly test positivity rate of 23%, far above the state average.
*In the last two weeks, the county has reported an average of 51 new cases per day.
*About 45% of cases in Umatilla County in the last week are sporadic cases that cannot be traced back to a known source.
According to Willamette Week, beginning July 26, the governor’s office says the Oregon Health Authority assigned seven case investigators and 29 contact tracers to Umatilla County. Willamette Week also reported earlier this month, the rural county, which includes Pendelton and Hermiston, has seen a resurgence in the virus lasting most of July.
Morrow County which neighbors Umatilla is also rolling back from Phase 2 to Phase 1. According to Brown, both counties have cumulative coronavirus case counts exceeding 2 per 100 residents, as reported by The Oregonian. President Trump’s coronavirus task force has identified both counties as “red zones,” mentioned in a July 26 report obtained by The New York Times.
It is also interesting to note, Brown’s press release issued at 7:39 p.m. Thursday, was more than five hours after Oregon health officials suggested the state had seen a relatively positive week in its struggle with the pandemic.
With more than 1,900 confirmed or presumed COVID-19 infections, there is reportedly 101 new infections for Umatilla County as of Thursday. The governor said both Umitillahave cumulative coronavirus case counts exceeding 2 per 100 residents. As it stands today, there have been a total of 316 reported deaths due to COVID-19 throughout Oregon.