A large coronavirus epidemic in small northeastern Oregon County increased by 119 new cases on Tuesday, again pushing the state to a new record for the number of confirmed cases in a single day, the state and the county officials said.
At least 236 cases of coronavirus have been linked to an outbreak at the Pentecostal Lighthouse Kingdom Church in Union County Island City, a small town near La Grande, state deputy epidemiologist Tom Jeanne said. The epidemic accounts for 47% of the 462 cases reported statewide since Monday.
“This is the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon to date,” Jeanne said.
The Oregon epidemic is gradually starting to reopen, and its spread could serve as a test case for how many Govt. Kate Brown will respond to a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Union County COVID-19 case number is now ten times what it was on a Sunday, after jumping from 22,121 to 240 cases. Its current rate of positive coronavirus tests is the highest in the state, at 22%.
Charles Boyle, a spokesperson for Brown, said Tuesday that the governor is waiting to see if the tracers sent to the Union County of Oregon Health Authority will be enough to prevent the spread of the virus, before deciding to revive more stringent stay-home restrictions.
“All options are on the table, however OHA is still in the process of assessing what targeted interventions can be implemented before we consider moving the county back in the reopening process,” Boyle said.
Union County moved into Brown’s Phase 2 reopening plan on June 5. The second phase of reopening relaxes restrictions on restaurants and allows them to places such as churches to convene again, while respecting social distance measures.
A now-deleted Facebook church video page showed hundreds of worshipers singing, dancing and jumping around during a May 24 service, before faith communities were allowed to convene in large groups.
Jeanne said the county and state had already received coronavirus test results for 356 members of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church Kingdom, and had tested most members of the congregation.
But, he said, public health officials were just starting the contact tracing process to verify how far the virus might spread on Île de la Cité and La Grande. The city of La Grande holds more than half of the county’s population of 27,000.
Jeanne said state officials believe they have had enough of tracer contact to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Union County has five contact tracers, and the state is sending more than 10 other staff members to help them get in touch, Jeanne said. He said neighboring departments are providing support, as well.
“At this point, hopefully, there won’t be much more (case),” Jeanne said, “but that contact tracing, quarantine and close monitoring will be important. If there are secondary cases or the other case, we will see. “
The County Union of Public Health Officials say the church has been “very attentive and taking appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of their congregation.”
A person who answered the phone at the church ended the call when questioned about the epidemic by The Regional Newspaper / OregonLive on Monday. A faith leader denied an interview with The Regional Newspaper / OregonLive on Tuesday.
The Big Observer reported the church recently held a wedding and graduation ceremony that had more than 100 people at each event.
Jeanne said five people were hospitalized due to the church-related epidemic.
“Hospitalizations are a delayed indicator, and so we are keeping an eye on that,” Jeanne said.
County of Union has not had any deaths from COVID-19.
The epidemic in Union County comes a week after 132 coronavirus cases were linked to an outbreak in the Pacific, from the Sea, to Newport. The epidemic in the Pacific, from the Sea has threatened to create public health and economic crisis in the small coastal town of Newport.
– Celina Tebor
– Jamie Goldberg | [email protected] | @jamiebgoldberg
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