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The first Central Oregon fatality from COVID-19 was reported in Crook County on July 9

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - St. Charles Prineville checks all patients for COVID-19 symptoms and has a tent available to treat those who may have contracted the illness.

As COVID-19 cases have continued to rise in Oregon, Crook County ended up in the limelight as the first presumptive COVID-19 death in Central Oregon was announced June 9.

Oregon's 225th COVID-19 death was a 63-year-old woman in Crook County who became symptomatic on July 1 after close contact with a confirmed case and died on July 8 at her residence. She had no underlying medical conditions.

Vicki Ryan, emergency preparedness coordinator and Crook County public information officer for Crook County Health Department, said the woman showed some minor symptoms and was tested on Tuesday, July 7. Ryan added that she did not have contact with anyone else in the county upon her return from traveling. The woman had traveled to California to her second home to visit family.

The woman, whose identity has not been released, was reportedly feeling better on Tuesday and "doing fine" when health officials visited her at home to give her a goodie bag with sanitizer, masks and other items to take care of herself. They were then contacted on Wednesday by law enforcement that the woman had died.

Ryan indicated that they are waiting for test results for the COVID-19 test that was conducted on Tuesday, July 7. As of July 13, the results were not yet available.

Going forward

On Feb. 28, Oregon reported its first case of COVID-19. Oregon Health Authority reported 332 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. Sunday, June 12, bringing the state total to 12,170.

As of July 13, Crook County had 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1,200 negative tests. As of that date, Jefferson County had 160 cases, and Deschutes county had 237. Oregon Health Authority also breaks down cases by demographics for the state of Oregon, which includes age group of cases, percentage in comparison to total cases in each group, hospitalizations and deaths in each group.

As of July 12, the age demographics for cases in Oregon were as follows; 0 to 9 years, 453 or 4%; 10 to 19, 976 or 9%; 20 to 29, 2,374 or 21%; 30 to 39, 2,022 or 18%; 40 to 40, 1,896 or 17%; 50 to 59, 1,558 or 14%; 60 to 69, 1,057 or 9%; 70 to 79, 654 or 6%, and 80 and over, 446 cases or 4%.

Deaths from COVID-19 related are inverted, with 109 deaths of 80 years and older; 63 from ages 70 to 79; 44 from ages 60 to 69; 11 from ages 50 to 59, and 5 under 50 years of age.

Ryan commented that in the near future, there will be no exemptions for wearing facial coverings in indoor public spaces. There will only be accommodations that are appropriate for medical conditions.

"They have to have an accommodation, and so they will either have to wear a face covering that is appropriate for their medical condition, or just a face shield or the business has to have those," commented Ryan. "They are not required but it is suggested the business have those items to help support an accommodation."

She added that this will take affect when Oregon Governor Kate Brown's office releases the language for this new mandate. It is currently waiting for approval within the next week. If an employee is not working with the public, and can maintain at least six feet of physical distance, they are not required to wear a face covering unless they come in contact with the public or cannot maintain six feet of distance to other people.

"The reality is that we are not exempt here in Crook County from this, because we have had an increase — we have had five cases in two days," remarked Ryan on July 9 of the urgency of the current increase in cases.

She said that three of the five have showed up in the OHA reporting system, and two more came out by Sunday, July 12. One more case was reported July 13.

"For a county that has only had a handful of cases, five is a spike," she emphasized.

Ryan said that Gov. Brown has put several counties on watch list — which are those that have had an increase or spike in cases.

"Until they can get those under control, they will remain on the watch list — which means if they can't get it under control that they could revert back to previous reopening guidance, and she could start shutting things down again."

A spike in cases is based on the percentage increase of cases rather than cumulative cases.

Jefferson County is on the list, and Crook County could get on the list of they continue to spike in cases.

She clarified that Crook County had ten active cases, as of Monday, July 13. Cumulatively, Crook County has 19 cases, with eight that have recovered. Since June 9, Crook County has added two more active cases.

"The virus is still very active and shows no sign of slowing, so we have to do our due diligence in helping stop and slow the spread," Ryan said.

Preventive measures include hand washing and hand sanitizing, maintaining face coverings in public and physical distancing.

"If you know you have been around someone who is a known case, then isolate and contact your doctor for testing, and then the health department gets contacted once we have a positive case. That is when we start our contact tracing," she clarified.

Contact tracing means calling people who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, to provide guidance and support. Its a tool for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In Oregon, local public health authorities use contact tracing to prevent the spread of many types of diseases, like measles — and now COVID-19.

Once the health department gets a confirmed case, they interview that person and call every other person that they encounter. This includes approximately 10 people for each positive case. She went on to say that the public does not always know what goes on behind the scenes for each positive case that is identified. Ryan's position includes making calls and answering questions for anything non-medically related.

To help keep the news media and public informed, St. Charles Health System is sharing its COVID-19 in-patient data on its website at

The data, which will be updated daily Monday through Friday, includes the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the number of COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators.

As of Friday, July 10, St. Charles had 11 patients with COVID-19, one of whom is in the ICU and also on a ventilator.

 St. Charles continues to remind the public to wear a mask, as well as practice physical distancing and good hand hygiene, as the number of the COVID-19 cases in Central Oregon continues to rise.

The health system has been preparing for a surge of COVID-19 patients since January, ensuring its hospitals and clinics remain a safe place for care of any kind. Individuals who experience a medical emergency should not hesitate to seek care.



To access current information on St. Charles Health System for in-patient data:

Crook County Health Department can be reached at:

375 N.W. Beaver ST., Prineville, OR 97754

Phone: 541-447-5165

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