UPDATE: County activates the emergency COVID-19 declaration

By on Tuesday, August 10th, 2021 in Columbia Basin News Columbia Basin Top Stories

UPDATE: The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners has activated the COVID-19 declaration of an emergency. The board did not issue any restrictions due to COVID, and members expressed the desire to consider the effect COVID-19 is having on businesses in any future decisions.

The motion to reactivate the emergency declaration was made by Commissioner Dan Dorran and seconded by Commissioner John Shafer. The vote was unanimous. A more detailed story will be posted separately once the actual document declaring the emergency is received. The meeting was held via telephone.

UMATILLA COUNTY – The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners has called a special meeting via a telephone call tomorrow (Wednesday) at 4 p.m. The purpose of the meeting will be to consider re-implementing the county’s declaration of an emergency due to COVID-19.

Two of the commissioners will be at the Umatilla County Fair while the third will be at the courthouse in Pendleton.

Board Chairman George Murdock said the meeting would be to renew the declaration, which then gives the county the ability to make spending and staffing decisions in light of the uptick of COVID-19 cases in the county. He added that there is no intention by the commissioners to institute any type of COVID-19 restrictions during the meeting.

“Heavens no,” Commissioner John Shafer said in agreeing with Murdock that there would be no new restrictions as a result of the meeting.

Murdock explained that having the emergency declaration back in effect would give the county the ability to spend and hire strategically as needed. As an example, he said if the vaccination stations at the fair are successful, it would empower them to purchase more meal vouchers and carnival wristbands if needed.

Last week, 984 people in Umatilla County were vaccinated, an increase of 40 percent over the previous week.  In his weekly newsletter, Murdock wrote that the county is under increasing pressure from the state to increase the vaccination rate in light of the dramatic increase in cases and due to “fall events” planned in the county.

“Putting an event in jeopardy that means $60 million to the local economy is dangerous, particularly knowing that for some businesses it could be the final nail in their coffin,” Murdock wrote. “In the coming weeks, we need to dramatically increase our vaccination rates to demonstrate that we are serious and that we care.”