Social gatherings are behind recent COVID-19 spike

PENDLETON – Umatilla County Public Health Director Joseph Fiumara is concerned about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, but adds that it’s not as bad as it was in July.

“I think we had days of 80 to 85 case numbers then,” he said. “We have not seen that and I’m very glad for that. But we’re definitely seeing more cases than we want and more than we’re comfortable with having.”

Another worry for Fiumara is contact tracing. He said that many people are either not answering their phones or not responding to voice mails left for them. He said that many people they do get in contact with won’t answer all the questions.

“They may tell us they attended a party, but they won’t tell us anything about who was there,” he said.

Fiumara said many of the county’s new cases appear to be stemming from parties held at the end of October, including a large Halloween party on the west side of the county. Not being able to effectively perform contact tracing on those who attended gatherings is a criteria that could cause the Oregon Health Authority to keep the county on the watch list longer.