Oregon's COVID-19 case count jumped by 278 on Tuesday, June 16, making it the highest one-day increase since the virus was first tracked in the state.
State health officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon that an outbreak in Union County was tied to a church in the area.
As of Tuesday, Union County had 119 active cases, the highest in the state, in keeping with the previous day's tally of 99, which also pegged the rural Oregon county as the source of a recent outbreak.
Citing Union County health officials, La Grande Observer reported many of the cases were linked to Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Island City, near La Grande, where a COVID-19 testing clinic recently was held.
The same church also held services in the months prior, and hosted a wedding and graduation ceremony with more than 100 people at each event, according to the local newspaper.
Last week, the Health Authority said the spike in positive cases was tied to the increase in availability of testing; more robust contact tracing; and active monitoring of close contacts of confirmed cases. The state also noted "workplace outbreaks" as another contributing factor in the increase.
"Today's numbers are consistent with a recent trend of more cases in the state," according to the Health Authority. "The increase in cases is due to workplace outbreaks as well as potential spread in the community, not tied to a known case."
In a news release Tuesday, Union County's Center for Human Development urged its residents to help prevent the spread of the virus.
"Our mission has never been clearer and we are doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of our community" said Carrie Brogoitti, the center's public health administrator. "Right now, more than ever we need our community to work together to help limit the spread of this virus and protect our most vulnerable populations."
The center noted that Grande Ronde Hospital & Clinics has a 25-bed critical access hospital, but is licensed to increase capacity to 40 patients in need of acute care if necessary.
Union County officials said the Grande Ronde Hospital Pavilion also could be used as an alternative care site, with capacity to treat at least 160 patients who may be recovering and near ready to return home.
What about protests?
Addressing questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon, Philip Schmidt, with the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said the state has not traced any outbreaks back to recent protests.
"We are definitely in the window now where we would be seeing a spike in cases from protests," Schmidt said. "We have not seen any significant numbers of any people attending protests prior to coming down with COVID."
State reports two new deaths
Following a wave of heightened cases since June 11, Oregon also reported two deaths on Tuesday.
Those who succumbed to the respiratory disease include an 89-year-old man in Clackamas County who tested positive on June 13 and died on June 15 at his home. The other death was an 85-year-old woman in Marion County who tested positive on June 11 and died on June 13, at Salem Hospital. Both people had underlying health conditions, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The new cases reported June 16 are in the following counties: Clackamas (21), Crook (1), Hood River (1), Jackson (1), Jefferson (1), Josephine (1), Klamath (8), Lane (1), Lincoln (17), Marion (22), Morrow (2), Multnomah (42), Umatilla (1), Union (119), Wasco (1), Washington (37), Yamhill (2).
To date, Oregon has reported 6,098 COVID-19 cases and 182 deaths.
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