UMATILLA COUNTY — Oregon’s first COVID-19-related death of a child between 0-9 years old has occurred — an infant boy from Umatilla County.
The Oregon Health Authority in a press release on Thursday, Feb. 18, reported the infant boy tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 17, and died that same day at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington. The OHA reported the child had unspecified underlying health conditions.
“Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy, even more so the death of a child,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, OHA’s health officer and state epidemiologist, said in a press release. “The death of an infant is extremely rare. This news represents a tremendous loss to the mother and family. My thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”
Children who contract COVID-19 are less likely to develop severe symptoms than adults, but they are still at risk, Sidelinger said. The state encourages all parents with children who test positive and develop certain symptoms to seek emergency medical care.
Those symptoms include troubled breathing, constant pain or pressure in the chest, new feelings of confusion, being unable to wake up or stay awake when not tired and bluish lips or face, OHA said.
“We have all worked together for nearly a year in Oregon to protect the lives of those we hold most dear,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “The loss of a life so young is an indescribable tragedy for a family. Dan and I send our thoughts and condolences to the mother and family of this child, whose grief must be unimaginable in this moment. The hearts of all Oregonians are with you today.”
Children with certain underlying medical conditions, as well as infants younger than 1 year old, could be at increased risk for developing severe symptoms. Most children who have experienced severe illness from COVID-19 have had underlying medical conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, as of Feb. 17, 140 reported COVID-19 deaths have come from children and teenagers younger than 14.
Only 1.3% of the state’s confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases among children 9 years old or younger required hospitalization, according to the CDC. The state has reported just under 7,000 cases of the virus among children.
Cases in Union, Wallowa counties
Union County’s official number of COVID-19 cases creeped up this week to 1,259, an increase of just 10 cases since Monday, Feb. 15. The Oregon Health Authority also reported no new deaths in the county from the virus.
But the La Grande School District on Thursday, Feb. 18, in an email reported in the first two weeks of February, 11 staff and 83 students tested positive for COVID-19, displayed a primary COVID-19 symptom or were identified as a close contact.
“Staff members and students being identified as close contacts cause a largely preventable instability to our operations,” according to the message from Superintendent George Mendoza.
He urged parents and guardians to take the following steps to help La Grande schools:
• Keep children home if they show any COVID-19 primary symptoms.
• Contact school nursing staff or a building administrator if you or someone in your household is showing primary symptoms or is a close contact.
• Work to avoid members of your household being within 6 feet of people outside your household for longer than 15 minutes.
Following these steps “to the greatest extent possible,” the message stated, would help “limit staff and students being isolated/quarantined and will help keep our schools in operation.”
Mendoza also pleaded with families in the district to heed precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including “guiding all members of your family to wear face coverings, wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes and avoid contact with people who have signs of illness.” He also said members of households need to get plenty of rest, exercise and eat a healthy diet.
Wallowa County had two new cases of COVID-19 in the Oregon Health Authority’s report Wednesday, Feb. 17, which brings the overall total in the county to 139 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 37 cases in the month of February. The rate of infection in the county is now just less than 2%.
The statewide scene
Oregon added 492 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, Feb. 19, bringing the state’s total to 152,190. The Oregon Health Authority also reported the death toll is 2,149.
There have been more than 755,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered, and more than 232,000 people have received both doses for full inoculation.
And most Oregon counties would maintain or improve their COVID-19 risk rating next week, according to preliminary data from the Oregon Health Authority.
Counties won’t officially find out where they place on the four tiers of risk level until Tuesday, Feb. 23. The Oregon Health Authority measures COVID-19 cases and positive test percentages each week. Every other week, it uses the numbers to adjust the position of counties on the four-tier risk chart of extreme, high, medium and lower risk.
Each category has different restrictions on businesses and activities.
Malheur County is on track to move from extreme to medium risk and Baker County is maintaining its high risk rating.
But Umatilla, Wallowa, Union, Morrow and Harney counties appear to be maintaining extreme level caseloads.
Wasco County could move from extreme to high risk.
There are a few exceptions to the trend. Douglas County is showing a rise to 271.7 cases per 100,000, a pace that would push it back into extreme risk restrictions.
Lake County continues to be a center of COVID-19 infections, with 1,002.4 cases per 100,000 and a rising infection rate of 19.4%
Statewide, Oregon has 181.3 cases per 100,000 and a test positive rate of 3.8%
A full report of the most recent data can be found at www.oregon.gov/oha/covid19/Documents/DataReports/Weekly-County-Metrics.pdf.
An interactive map of Oregon showing data and risk levels is at coronavirus.oregon.gov/Pages/living-with-covid-19.aspx#countystatus.
— Other members of the EO Media Group contributed to this report.