The epidemic has spread among the Lighthouse congregation of the Pentecostal Church on Île de la Cité, just east of La Grande. Of 365 church members tested, 236 returned positive for COVID-19, according to Dr. Tom Jeanne, vice-state epidemiologist.
Jeanne suggested that the chronology of the epidemic, many people test positive at once – indicated that the primary transmission likely occurred between church members and not as part of wider community outreach .
“It could have been a service or event that was responsible for the majority of the transmissions,” Jeanne said. “It’s a bit early to say.”
Local health officials offered a slightly different explanation, lessening the church’s role in reporting.
According to the Grande, observe, Le Phare newspaper, the Pentecostal Church began to hold worship services and other events in person in April and May. Videos posted on Facebook which have since been taken down, showed his devotees, standing close together, not wearing masks, singing and praying.
Jeanne says that people infected with the virus range from children to the elderly and to include people with a relatively diverse group of racial and ethnic origins.
To date, five people have been hospitalized during the epidemic.
Union County, west of the Wallowa Mountains, has a population of approximately 25,000. Now she has the highest rate of COVID-19 infections per capita anywhere in the state: nearly nine cases per 1,000 people.
The county entered Phase 2 of Prop. Kate Brown’s setting for the reopening, but he is now in shock. The Grand Mayor of Steve Clements said that after three months and almost no cases, the community – including himself – began to be complacent about the risk posed by the coronavirus.
“We were looking forward, as a community, for a summer out and about, back in restaurants, for a little more normal life,” Clements said. “Who was taken from under us.”
Clements estimates that a relatively small percentage of the local population was wearing masks in public.
“They got used to the idea that the virus was not for us here. Even though I was wearing a mask, I was very relaxed about the whole thing, “he said.
But the mayor’s sentiment has changed over the past few days.
“I am scared. I am worried about my community. I am worried about my family, my friends. I feel helpless at times, ”he says.
Clements said he is concerned about whether there is a plan to get food and financial aid to families who need it to quarantine to prevent the virus from spreading. Complicating this effort, he said that Union County has relatively few social service and nonprofit organizations, so churches often fulfill this role.
The mayor is urging people to put politics aside and come together as a community, try to limit the spread of the virus.
Last Thursday, two of the Union County Commissioners attended a meeting of rural county commissioners interested in the fight against government-ordered closures. Kate Brown, a Portland Democrat.
This week, the state sent two Oregon Health Authority staff members from the County Union to facilitate the response, as well as eight public health workers who will assist them remotely with tracking contacts.