OSU estimates that 17% of coronovirus-infected Hermistone residents


Oregon government Kate Brown’s decision to push back Umatilla County to stay indoors when researchers at Oregon State University speculated that she knew of dangerously high coronoviruses.

A random sample of Hermiston residents last Saturday and Sunday found that 41 – or 8.7% – of 471 people tested positive for coronavirus.

Researchers later calculated that the actual prevalence in the city of about 18,000 residents was 17%, or about 3,000 active infections.

Brown said in a statement, “This study confirms what we have feared based on weeks of disturbing data from the Oregon Health Authority. Coronovirus has spread throughout the community and is a threat to the entire community.”

Brown learned of the study’s results Thursday during a briefing from top leaders at the Oregon Health Authority, who also shared other state-collected data points illustrating persistent problems in Umatilla County.

Coronovirus cases have been on the rise in Umatilla County for over a month and a half, pushing the jurisdiction for the fourth most cases in Oregon, despite having the 13th-highest number of residents. Cases are also climbing in neighboring neighboring counties, to push Brown into a reopening situation in Phase 1.

Prior to the latest study conducted by Oregon State University as part of its months-long project, the growth of cases in the Hermiston area was well documented, beginning in Corvallis before moving to Bend and Newport. The state’s data showed that the highest number of new cases were reported in Harmonton’s 97838 zip code since June.

“Our results indicate that the virus is very widespread in Hermistone and more prevalent than previous data,” said Ben Dalzill, an assistant professor and co-director of the project, in a statement.

It is unclear how many of the 41 people who tested positive during the OSU study were already identified as testing positive and included numbers compiled by the Oregon Health Authority. The state has confirmed 1,902 Umatilla County residents or confirmed infections.

Dalziel told The Oregonian / OregonLive that participants who submitted test samples are not asked whether they had already tested or if they had tested positive for COVID-19.

But researchers ask about the symptoms, and four out of five Hermiston residents who tested positive during OSU’s project were not reported to have indicators of the virus. Participants are given a broom to collect a specimen from their nose.

Researchers also collected samples from sewage in Hermiston and boardmen in Morrow County. They also reflect high levels of the virus.

The Mayor of Hermiston, David Drotzman, expressed alarm over the findings.

“The results of this study are an important caveat,” he said in a statement. “Now we have a clear picture of how many people are understanding this disease without knowing it, and how fast it is spreading from house to family, house to family.”

– Brad Schmidt; [email protected]; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt

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