Spike In Oregon COVID-19 Cases Tied To Union County Church

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s coronavirus cases continue to rise, with 184 new cases reported Monday – the highest daily count in the state since the start of the pandemic.

The Oregon Health Authority says a portion of the increase is due to an outbreak in Union County in the rural northeastern part of the state, where 99 people tested positive for COVID-19. A number of cases are associated with the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Union County, said Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for infectious diseases and immunizations at the Health Authority Public Health Division.

Authorities weren’t more specific about exactly how many cases were tied to the church.

Cieslak said because there were cases associated with the church, the county worked with it to host a testing clinic.

“We have been doing testing, especially targeted testing, around the places where we are starting to see clusters,” Cieslak. “The clusters cue us off where the disease transmission is going on and once you find a cluster and have a testing event like this, you find a lot of people infected.”

Cieslak said 365 people in Union County were tested over the weekend, and officials are expecting the remaining test results Tuesday.

Union County has a population of nearly 27,000 according to the U.S. Census. Prior to the latest, Union County had fewer than 25 confirmed cases during the pandemic.

“We were surprised by the number that tested positive,” Cieslak said.

The county moved into phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, which loosens restrictions on restaurants and gatherings, June 5.

“One of our messages that we are trying to get out to the public is that large gatherings, especially in close quarters if distancing can’t be maintained, are really an efficient way in spreading COVID-19,” Cieslak said. “Whether it be in a workplace, or especially a closed assembly area, this is really a concern.”

Monday’s reported cases across the state bring the new total number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Oregon to 5,820. In addition, four more people have died from the disease, raising the state’s death toll to 180. The second highest daily case count in the state was 178 cases on Thursday.

In response to the increasing case counts Gov. Kate Brown last week said she was putting all county applications for further reopening from her COVID-19 restrictions on hold for seven days.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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