Saying a 'political stalemate' and an unacceptable rise in cases was the culprit, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the drastic rollback in Umatilla County from Phase 2 to lockdown was necessary, as well as Morrow from Phase 2 to Phase 1.

July 31st. the East Oregonian reported Brown said "if we did not act immediately this could spread like wildfire". Now the county will return to a stay at home for at least 21 days, with only essential businesses such as gas stations and grocery stores remaining open. A source close to the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce said this shutdown is expected to have a significant impact on the local economy.

A look at data from the Umatilla County Health Department shows beginning in late June and early July, an increase in cases that officials say coincided with the county's move to Phase 2.   The Umatilla County Health Department does not specify on their site, but the way the data is presented it's presumed these are daily new cases. From single digits, the counts began to range from 35-40 per day, peaking around 58 on July 23. Then they showed a falling pattern again around July 25 (34) and by July 27 (6) and July 31 (-0-) they had dropped again. The week prior to the shutdown, active cases had dropped from 223  to 194.

41 of those reportedly came from a July 25 weekend 'visit' by 38 members of the Oregon State University COVID Trace teams, who canvassed neighborhoods in Hermiston. They claimed based upon their data (extrapolating and models) that 3,000 of the 18,000 people in the city had it, but most didn't know. State health officials appeared to 'run' with those numbers, and widespread media reports came out that as much as 17% of the city was potentially infected.

Gov. Brown claimed the state had been trying to get Umatilla and Morrow to voluntarily enact more restrictions and perhaps drop from Phase 2 to 1 like Union County did, but says the state was rebuffed by county commissioners. They said they would only enforce the official state mandates and requirements.

Two Hermiston-area sources have told Newstalk870 (one from business, one from government) they find the timing very "curious" as to the arrival of the COVID Trace teams. They have been making their way across Oregon, but these two believe it's no accident they showed up in Hermiston/Umatilla County on the heels of local government resistance.

They and others also say they would not be surprised if this were also in response to massive support in the county for the recent recall petition started against Brown several weeks ago. These sources say number of signatures and loud support for the drive in Umatilla County is some of the highest in the state.  During a visit to Pendleton three weekends ago, we saw two different recall signup booths alongside the road.

These sources do not believe the Umatilla County numbers warranted such a severe set back from Phase 2 to lockdown. Perhaps Phase 2 to 1, but they believe lockdown is overkill.

Reports say Gov. Brown and officials referred to the Umatilla County numbers as ominous, but 7-31 figures from the UCHD do not seem to paint that picture.

Aside from rising case counts, here are the numbers:

  • Total cases (since COVID tracking began: 1961. based upon the 2018 county population of 77,950, that's 2.51 percent.
  • Total inactive cases (meaning passed or recovered) 1624. You would subtract these from the total cases.
  • Total ACTIVE and Presumptive cases (probables): 314, and 99. Total 412. That is 0.52 percent of the county population.
  • Total deaths: 23.  That is a death rate of 1.17 percent vs. 1961 cases since day one.
  • Total number of hospitalized persons as of 7-31:   13.

We have not been able to determine what percentage that is of total number of persons in county hospital beds. But 13 appears to be rather low.

The UCHD also has this statement posted on their site, a statement that calls into question perhaps some of the validity of their data:

 "While the demographic data shared is representative of COVID-19 infection in Umatilla County, the sample size of positive cases in our county is too small for statistical analysis of disease trends."

Such statistical analysis is important to get the full accurate picture of the impact of COVID-19 without subjecting the public and others to inaccurate information and unnecessary fear and stress.

To view the UCHD data for yourself click on the button below.

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