LA GRANDE, Ore. — An outbreak of coronavirus in northeastern Oregon's Union County has prompted local officials to ask that residents return to Phase I in spite of the county's current Phase II reopening status.
The Oregon Health Authority reported on Tuesday that 236 people — out of 356 who were tested over the weekend — had returned positive results for COVID-19 during the investigation of an outbreak linked to the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in La Grande.
On Wednesday, the Union County Incident Management Team said that it had issued a recommendation to county officials that "citizens voluntarily return to Phase I regulations." The board of county commissioners approved that request and issued the recommendations to the people of Union County.
"This is not a mandate, but a recommendation that the community implement mitigation measures consistent with Phase 1," officials said in a statement. "The IMT and the Board of Commissioners believe these actions will be in the best interest of the community. Keeping the community safe and as healthy as possible in these challenging times is the priority. Board approval was unanimous."
The local Sheriff and La Grande Police Chief reportedly advised that the rollback be made voluntary, because of potential difficulties in enforcing a mandate.
"This decision was made due to the significant rise in confirmed COVID-19 case numbers, concerns for the protection of the community, and concerns for impacts to Grande Ronde Hospital," Union County officials said. "Voluntary adherence by citizens will apply to individuals, businesses and organizations, although many have already voluntarily returned to the Phase 1 guidance."
The Union County commissioners also urged that residents follow OHA guidance for wearing cloth face coverings or masks, particularly when physical distancing can't be observed.
"Additional testing is continuing throughout the county with testing clinics scheduled for tomorrow and Friday," officials said. "As test results continue to be returned, this will reflect how far outside of the initial outbreak the coronavirus has spread. We are asking for the community’s participation in a voluntary return to Phase 1."