Grande Ronde Hospital

Union County had its first death related to COVID-19. The Center for Human Development announced a 90-year-old woman with underlying conditions died Thursday at Grande Ronde Hospital, La Grande. She tested positive for the virus June 13.

LA GRANDE — Union County has seen its first death related to COVID-19 on the same day it passed 300 confirmed cases.

The Center for Human Development on Friday announced 12 more cases of COVID-19, moving the total in the county to 309.

The center also announced the first COVID-19-related death: a 90-year-old woman with underlying conditions who died Thursday at Grande Ronde Hospital. The release stated she tested positive for the virus June 13.

"We are saddened to share this news today. Our thoughts are with her family and friends as they grieve this loss," Carrie Brogoitti, CHD public health administrator, stated in the press release. "We must continue to take steps to protect each other. Every resident of Union County can reduce the impact of this virus on our community by continuing prevention measures."

The county has 295 active cases, and the release also stated 13 individuals have recovered from the virus.

The Oregon Health Authority on Friday reported the state is up to 7,818 cases of COVID-19 and 202 deaths.

OHA also released its latest COVID-19 report earlier in the week, and it shows that every city in Union County has a case of the virus. 

That conclusion is drawn from an examination of the agency's COVID-19 Weekly Report, which the agency released Wednesday afternoon.

The report looks at the available data through Sunday nights each week. At that point, Union County had 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and there were 7,083 in the state.

Of those cases, 230 of them were connected to the 97850 ZIP code, which encompasses La Grande and Island City.

How many are in towns outside La Grande, though, is uncertain.

The other six ZIP codes in the county — 97827 (Elgin and surrounding area), 97841 (Imbler), 97883 (Union), 97824 (Cove), 97867 (North Powder) and 97876 (Summerville) all have at least one of the remaining 28 cases. But the data on how many are in each town is vague at best.

OHA's report lists each ZIP code in the state and the number of cases in those ZIP codes, but with a couple of caveats that, in fact, impact the available data for the other six towns in Union County.

ZIP codes with no cases are listed as such, and there were 50 in the state at the time of the report. But areas that have between one and nine cases are marked "1-9," and this is true in the report for the ZIP codes for Elgin, Union and Cove.

The weekly report does not list the ZIPs for Imbler, North Powder and Summerville, but their amounts likely are in the compiled total with other ZIP codes across the state with a population of less than 1,000 at the 2010 Census. There are 191 combined cases statewide within those ZIP codes.

The 28 cases in the report for the other six ZIP codes in the county would give each an average of about 4.67 cases.

The three smaller ZIP codes in Union County likely are lower than that. The website lists 416 ZIP codes in the state. Based on that number and the data on the OHA report, there are roughly 140 ZIPs in the state with less than 1,000 people. Given they make up 191 of the cases in the state, that gives those areas an average of 1.36 cases per ZIP. Factor that in, and the other three cities in the county could be looking at about eight each, which would be above average.

The statewide average for the 108 ZIPs on the report with "1-9" listed is 3.39 cases apiece.

The reason for the seemingly obscure way the numbers are posted is spelled out in the report.

"In order to protect patient privacy, ZIP codes with small populations or small numbers of cases will be aggregated," it states. "Cases from ZIP codes with less than 1,000 people will be reported as one number. ZIP codes that have fewer than 10 cases will be reported as '1–9.'"

The 97850 ZIP code accounted for the fourth-highest total of cases in the state at the time the report was compiled, but has the highest number of cases per 10,000 residents of the ZIP codes for which the data is available (any with 10 or more cases) at 135.7 cases per 10,000. There were 118 ZIP codes listed with at least 10 cases, which made up 6,474 (91.4%) of the cases in the state.

The report also gives an indicator of how many COVID-19 patients Grande Ronde Hospital has had during the outbreak, and while the data is vague like the case count, it does show the medical center hasn't been overrun.

Grande Ronde Hospital is in a list of 30 hospitals that, during the week of June 15-21, reported "1-9 COVID-19 patients," which would indicate at the time of the report its well within the threshold of what the hospital can manage. As The Observer has previously reported, the hospital states it has the capacity to handle up to 25 patients, and can extend resources to handle 40 in an emergency situation. Should Grande Ronde need it, its Pavilion also is set to take an additional 160 patients. 

Data on the OHA website, which also is vague about case numbers, shows as of Wednesday morning the number of Union County hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was "greater than 5."

Mardi Ford, spokesperson for the hospital, said Friday the total census of Grande Ronde's patients in-house was 19.

"That's every admitted patient in family birthing center as well as surgical, medical and intensive," she said. "Our average historical daily census is around 13-14 (54%), so as you can see in the midst of a pandemic, being at 76% of our 25-bed capacity for all patients is actually reassuring. And if we need to do so, we are granted license in an emergency situation to nearly double that 25-bed capacity."

Ford added the hospital was handling the situation well.

The Oregon Health Authority report did not have any data on the Union County outbreak, which health authorities have said has at least 236 cases connected to the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Island City. Since the data in the report was compiled, the county has added 39 cases and is at 297.

The ZIP codes including Joseph, Enterprise and Wallowa each have "1-9" on the data. Lostine's ZIP code is not listed, indicating it falls in the 191 cases in ZIP with less than 1,000 population. To date, Wallowa County has eight cases.

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