Kate Oregon government Kate Brown’s decision on Thursday to return Umatilla County back to its home reception learned of the alarmingly high spread of coronavirus in Hermiston, which was assessed by researchers at Oregon State University.
A random sample of the Hermiston population last Saturday and Sunday found that 41 out of 471 people – or 8.7% – had a positive coronavirus.
The researchers later estimated that in a city of about 18,000 people, the actual prevalence was 17%, or about 3,000 active infections.
“This study confirms what we feared, based on weeks of disruptive data from the Oregon Health Service: the coronavirus has spread throughout Hermiston and poses a threat to the entire community,” Brown said in a statement.
Brown learned of the results of the study on Thursday through key leaders in the Oregon Health Administration, who also shared other data points collected by the state showing ongoing problems in Umatilla County.
Cases of coronavirus have spread in Umatilla County for a month and a half, making jurisdiction equivalent to the fourth case in Oregon, despite a 13th population. Cases also arise in neighboring Morrow County, prompting Brown to return him to a Phase 1 upgrade state.
The increase in the number of cases in the Hermiston area was well documented even before the latest study conducted by Oregon State University as part of its several-month project that began in Corval before moving to Bend and Newport. State data showed that the Hermiston 97838 zip code has been one of the biggest new cases on a regular basis since June.
“Our results show that the virus is very widespread in Hermiston and more common than previously reported,” said Ben Dalziel, an associate professor and one of the project’s directors, in a statement.
It is unclear how many of the 41 people who tested positive in the OSU study have already been found to be positive and included in the figures compiled by the Oregon Health Service. The state has identified 1,902 residents of Umatilla County who have been diagnosed or suspected of being infected.
Dalziel told Oregonian / OregonLive that participants who submit samples are not asked if they have already been tested or if their COVID-19 test was positive.
However, researchers are asking about symptoms, and four out of five Hermiston residents who tested positive for the OSU project did not report having viral markers. Participants are given a swab to take a sample from the nose.
Researchers also collected wastewater samples from Hermiston and Boardman in Morrow County to control the spread. It also showed high levels of the virus.
Hermiston Mayor David Drotzmann expressed concern about the findings.
“The results of this study are a serious warning,” the report said. “We now have a clearer picture of how many people carry the disease without knowing it and how quickly it spreads in the family, in the family, in the household.”
– Brad Schmidt; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
Subscribe to Oregonian / OregonLive newsletters and podcasts news and popular stories.