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PENDLETON — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a coronavirus alert Tuesday, July 5, recommending indoor masking for 24 Oregon counties with “high” COVID-19 community levels. The warning applied to Eastern Oregon counties, including Umatilla and Morrow.

The CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and getting tested if you have symptoms, at the high alert level. Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness.

Umatilla County Board of Commissioners met July 6. There was no agenda item dealing with masking up. Board Chair John Shafer said speaking for himself, he has no appetite to see the return of any restrictions.

The county updates its COVID-19 dashboard Monday through Thursday during the recent surge rather than weekly on Wednesday, county public health department epidemiologist Mike Stensrud said.

Umatilla County reported 88 new COVID-19 cases July 5, which included the holiday weekend. The recent high was 34 new cases June 25. No new deaths were reported. The county has recorded 229 total deaths related to COVID-19 to date.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Region 9 still are below their peaks in October 2021 and February 2022. Baker, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties compose Region 9. Patients hospitalized with positive COVID-19 peaked at 45 in Region 9 on Feb. 4. On June 25, 12 were hospitalized in the region, up from 0 on April 30 and some other days that month.

Umatilla County Public Health continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines at Pendleton, Hermiston and other locations, said Alisha Southwick, the department’s deputy director. It resumed automatically mailing test kits to people exposed to COVID-19-infected individuals in response to the surge. The kits also are available for businesses.

“We provide support to outbreaks in vulnerable sites, such as long-term care facilities,” she added.

The county continues to monitor case reports and the wastewater sample data from Hermiston and Pendleton, Southwick said, and the public health department’s message is the same as before the latest surge.

“Stay home if you’re sick,” she admonished. ”Wear a mask indoors in public. Get vaccinated and boosted. The message gets stale, so it’s difficult to drive it home. We share it with the media at every opportunity.”

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