Oregon Health Authority

Oregon Health Authority

Umatilla County was returned to Oregon’s list of counties to watch in the battle against COVID-19 on Friday.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the change, which comes after the county was removed from the watch list on Sept. 18.

Counties are placed on the watch list when COVID-19 is spreading quickly and public health officials cannot trace the spread to specific sources, creating a potentially dangerous dynamic, officials said.

Specific markers of this rapid community spread include instances of a sporadic case rate of 50 or more per 100,000 people in the previous two weeks and a county has had more than five sporadic cases in the last two weeks.

The designation does not affect Umatilla County’s Phase 2 status on the state’s four-stage plan of reopening, officials said.

“This is the first time we have seen a county added back to the Watch List,” Brown said in a statement.

“Combined with yesterday’s record high statewide case count, this is a sign that we must tread cautiously or we risk losing the gains we’ve made in slowing the spread of COVID-19. My priority is getting kids in every county safely back in school — but that will become more and more difficult if COVID-19 case numbers spike.”

Counties on the watch list are offered extra support and resources from state agencies in helping reduce community spread of the coronavirus.

Help from Oregon Health Authority increases monitoring and communication, and deploys additional technical assistance and resources, such as case investigation and contact tracing help.

Umatilla County must remain on the list for a minimum of three weeks and until its sporadic case rates drop below set thresholds.

The county on Friday reported 13 more people with the coronavirus, creating an overall count of 2,982 people who have had the illness, including 42 who have died. Seven people are currently hospitalized.

Oregon authorities also said Friday they are changing the way the health department reports recovered cases of COVID-19.

Before May Oregon Health Authority periodically called people with COVID-19 and asked if they still experienced symptoms to assess when they had recovered.

People who reported no longer suffering symptoms were reported as “recovered.”

But after May 1, those calls were discontinued and the definition of recovered from the disease was revised to become a person “alive 60 days after onset of illness.”

That measure did not factor in people who experience prolonged illness or lasting effects from COVID-19, officials said.

For now the count of recovered cases no longer be reported on state dashboards.

Experts are developing a new metric that will measure the proportion of virus sufferers who are alive 60 days after onset of illness that will possibly include factors that measure disease severity, such as hospitalization status, public health officials noted.

There were 425 new confirmed and presumptive cases of Oregonians with COVID-19 and three more related deaths Friday, reports show.

Washington

Walla Walla County officials on Friday reported a single new case for the day, and an active case number at 39, including two hospitalized people and seven Washington State Penitentiary inmates.

Out of 951 county residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, six have died and 906 are reported to be recovered.

Washington state officials reported 642 cases of Washingtonians who have tested positive for the disease, putting the state total at 92,560 people, including 2,190 who have died from the virus, seven more since Thursday.

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Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.