Union County Voluntarily Returns to Phase 1 Following Oregon’s Largest Outbreak


Union County, rural northeastern Oregon county home to the largest coronavirus outbreak, voluntarily returned to Gov Phase 1. Kate Brown coronavirus reopening plan for Wednesday.

The county is the first in Oregon to the rear, under the progressive governor of the reopening of guidelines. The move came after the county recorded a giant spike in coronavirus cases, from 22 on Sunday, to 242 from Wednesday.

Union County had entered Brown’s Phase 2 reopening plan on June 5. The more stringent Phase 1 regulations, gatherings are limited to 25 people or less, and churches are not allowed to meet in large groups.

State of public health have linked the county’s epidemic to the Lighthouse of the Pentecostal Church on Île de la Cité, next to La Grande.

The Northeast Oregon Joint Information Center, which helps coordinate the County Emergency Response Union, released a statement on Wednesday explaining the county’s decision to return to Phase 1.

“This decision was made due to the significant increase in the confirmed COVID-19 number of cases, concerns for community protection, concerns and impacts at Grande Ronde Hospital,” the statement said.

“Voluntary membership by citizens can apply to individuals, businesses and organizations, although many have already voluntarily returned to Phase 1 of the guidance.”

County Union has a population of approximately 27,000. The Great is the county’s hub, says Suzannah Moore-Hemann, executive director of the County Chamber of Commerce Union.

She voluntarily believes returning to Phase 1 is a good idea for the security community, but says the move will be painful for the economy.

“We entered Phase 2 two weeks ago,” Moore-Hemann said. “It’s not even enough time to start generating income to compensate for the first closure. I’m sure a lot of companies are coming back to experience a really dramatically reduced revenue stream. “

The room serves as a source of information, and Moore-Hemann, said the constantly changing news, it doesn’t have all the answers to the questions that business owners are in demand.

“It’s really anxiety-inducing – the unknown, the feeling of stress and difficulty for our businesses,” Moore-Hemann said. “You almost feel helpless when you are thinking,” I wish there was more we could do. “I wish I could give more concrete answers.‘ ”

Gabi McCauley grew up and lives in Union County and worked as a nurse for 12 years in nursing and long-term care homes. She said in a small community like La Grande, the high volume of cases could devastate the community.

“He’s just going to be so bad if they don’t have it under control,” McCauley said.

State and county public health officials say they are taking steps to prevent the virus from spreading far beyond Pentecostal Church Lighthouse.

Tom Jeanne, the deputy state, of an epidemiologist, said Tuesday that at least 236 cases are linked to the church.

Despite the severity of the epidemic, Tim Heider, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, said the state was confident in the number of investigators and contacting the tracers he had to respond to the epidemic.

Most members of the congregation have already been tested for the virus. Communicating with the tracers is identifying close contacts to those in their community who may have been exposed, but Heider could not say how many close contacts should be tested for the virus.

Jeanne said the Oregon Health Authority provided 10 employees to assist the county with five tracer contacts. He said two of the state workers were in the field in Union County and the other eight were remote workers. Neighboring counties are also helping them, he says.

Joseph Fiumara, in the county public health director for Umatilla County, said his county was contacted by the County Union on Friday and asked if they would be able to offer support like the county is struggling with what was growing in a serious epidemic.

“We have put who offer there, and we are ready and able to provide some support, if they need us,” Fiumara said.

Union County has not had any coronavirus deaths so far, but McCauley and the other residents are concerned that it will change. So far, at least five people have been hospitalized, officials said.

Jeanne said if capacity becomes a concern at the local Grand Ronde Hospital, state officials will work to transfer patients to other eastern Portland, Oregon hospitals or Boise.

The governor expressed support for the County Union made the decision to return to Phase 1 in a statement released by his office.

“We support local officials in their decision to protect the county’s public health from residents,” said Charles Boyle, a spokesperson for Brun.

Leaders at Lighthouse Pentecostal Church have not responded to various and repeated communications attempts from The Regional Newspaper / OregonLive. A chief faith refused to speak on Tuesday.

The Facebook church page posted a video Tuesday morning, in which Pastor James Parker held a prayer vigil one morning and appeared to be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, without recognizing by name.

“I thank everyone for being cooperative with what has been decided and doing your best to help them,” Parker said in the video. “In the end, our fruits show that what we are doing is the right thing, and more people need to do what we have done. The more people who do the right thing, the more it will be for the rest of the world to fight this pandemic that we are going through. ”

Parker has yet to explain what “the right thing” is, and the church has not responded to a request for clarification.

A now-deleted Facebook post from the end of May, said the church would reopen to members of Memorial Day weekend “in agreement” with President Donald Trump asking states to allow churches to open .

A second Facebook post that was deleted showed hundreds of worshipers dancing, singing and moving around, in a video posted on May 24.

The decision to open the doors of the church came in the middle of the state scale of pressure from some religious leaders for summary services.

Ten churches sued the governor in early May, arguing for his social distancing from the guidelines were more justified. A Baker County Circuit Judge ruled in favor of the churches and stood by his decision on May 26, declaring Brown’s orders “null and void.” The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the judge to drop his preliminary injunction on June 12.

Boyle, the governor of the spokesperson, said mr. Brown has not made plans to cite churches that do not follow stay at home restrictions.

“Law enforcement decisions would be made at the local level,” Boyle said in an email. “However, at this time, our priority is to ensure that community members have access to the health care they need and that the country has the resources to respond to this epidemic.”

McCauley said she hopes pastors who have decided to arrange services against Brown, orders will be cited.

“Point to me in the Bible where Jesus said to go out and infect everyone,” McCauley said.

Henry Larson, another resident of Union County, said that other local churches and groups followed the stay-home restrictions, and the decision to reopen the Lighthouse of the Pentecostal Church was not widely supported among local residents.

“As a religious person, it shocked me to know that they were going to put their needs above the safety and well-being of the whole community,” Larson said.

– Celina Tebor

[email protected]


– Jamie Goldberg | [email protected] | @jamiebgoldberg


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