LA GRANDE — One county sits on the coast and is lined with beaches. One is tucked away in Northeast Oregon far from much of the state’s population.
But Lincoln County and Union County share one distinction: They are the two Oregon counties hardest hit by the coronavirus per capita.
Lincoln County as of Wednesday had a total of 301 cases, which was sixth in the state, according to the Oregon Health Authority, while the Center for Human Development, La Grande, reported Wednesday morning that Union County has five new cases, increasing its total to 287.
Union County, though, has seen more than 1% of its population of roughly 27,000 infected with the disease. Lincoln County, which has approximately 46,000 residents, is at 0.64%, which makes it the only other county with a rate of more than 0.5%.
Each can point to an outbreak as the majority source of its cases: The first week of June, Lincoln County had 122 confirmed in two days linked to the Pacific Seafood plant in Newport. Union County had its own surge a week later with 218 confirmed cases in two days connected to the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Island City.
Lincoln had just 12 cases prior to June 1, and though there had been an uptick, the county was at 33 cases before reporting 61 cases on both June 7 and 8, according to data from Oregon Health Authority. Union County had six cases prior to June 9, then added 16 in the next six days before the spike of 99 cases June 15 and 119 cases on the 16th.
Since Lincoln County’s outbreak came a week before Union County’s, can anything from the trend in those days following the outbreak indicate what Union County could expect?
The 10-day period after the outbreak in Lincoln County was relatively mellow, though on average still higher than before. The county twice added 14 cases and had a day that saw 17, but there also were days with two, three or four cases, and even a day with none.
Union County has been similar, with six days of counts that were not extreme — two, three, five or six cases. But the seventh day after the outbreak — June 23 — saw a jump of 19 cases.
Lincoln’s trend could show that outbreaks may not be done in Union County either. Lincoln County on June 19 and 20 — 11 and 12 days after the first outbreak — had a second outbreak with 31 and 23 cases, respectively. It has again leveled off, and Tuesday the county had no new cases for just the second time this month.
It added nine cases Wednesday.
If Union County follows a similar path, it too could have another jump — and whether Tuesday’s higher number is part of that remains to be seen.
As for testing, Lincoln County is ahead in that department with close to 10% of its population tested. Union County is currently near 6% but still has several hundred tests pending from last week’s test clinics at the Union County Fairgrounds.