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Grande Ronde Hospital, La Grande, lost about $3.9 million in the first quarter of 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a financial report from the Oregon Health Authority. The hospital announced Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, it was longer needs to operate its internal incident command system to deal with the pandemic.

LA GRANDE — The number of COVID-19 cases in Union County has flatlined. The Center for Human Development Wednesday, July 29, reported an eighth consecutive day without any new cases, leaving the overall total since the start of the pandemic at 385, with the vast majority being counted in two days during mid-June’s breakout.

The number of individuals hospitalized at Grande Ronde Hospital has decreased as well.

While the exact number has not been reported — the hospital, per policy, does not disclose the reason for an individual’s hospitalization and Oregon Health Authority’s data is intentionally vague — data from the OHA during the last six weeks indicate the La Grande-based hospital was never close to overrun by patients with COVID-19, and never at one time had double-digit numbers of patients infected with the coronavirus.

“We have been saying for months that positive COVID test numbers do not equate to hospitalization rates. We hope that message can now be heard,” said Mardi Ford, the hospital’s director of communication. “Our efforts as a community to flatten the curve, particularly after the large outbreak in June, helped mitigate a continued rise in case numbers for Union County. This has translated into OHA indicating Union County has seen a lower hospitalization rate compared to other areas throughout the state.”

Each week since the outbreak occurred, OHA has shown in its weekly reports the hospital has had nine or fewer hospitalizations during that previous week. The report, as it does with low counts of COVID-19 cases in a given ZIP code, lists “1-9” when a hospital has fewer than 10. It does list a specific number of cases when a hospital has 10 or more in a week.

During its first press conference on the June outbreak, OHA reported there were five hospitalizations.

The county saw a drop in the number of hospitalizations in early July. OHA weekly on its websites updates the status of hospitals that have had more than five patients with COVID-19 in the prior 28 days and shows whether they have met a criteria of having that number decrease over a 14-day period.

Early in the month, Union County was marked as having met that designation, but a week later apparently saw an increase as it was marked as not meeting the criteria.

On the July 16 update, Union County was again marked as having met the criteria, and on July 23 was no longer listed among the higher-burdened hospitals. That data was current through July 22, which would mean that all told from June 24-July 22, GRH had five or fewer patients.

“The outbreak was caught quickly and dealt with by public health partners,” Ford said. “That response, along with those of our local officials, businesses and community members doing their part to stop the spread locally, has helped keep hospitalization rates down.”

The data doesn’t indicate how many new hospitalizations there were weekly or how many were accounted for in original information provided by OHA, which has reported that the average length of a hospitalization due to COVID-19 in Oregon has been six days.

Statewide, about 9% of COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized, but the known data shows GRH has been nowhere near that mark, which would be about 35 patients. Even if the county had the maximum total it could report (nine) in each of the first two weeks following the outbreak and five total between June 24 and July 22, that would be a total of only 23 patients.

East Region Sports Editor

Ronald's primary beats are Eastern Oregon University, La Grande High School and the other eight high schools of Union and Wallowa counties. As an avid sports fan, he is primarily reading about or watching sports when he isn't covering a game.

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