Wasco County remains in the “extreme risk” category due to community spread of COVID-19, but a recent and significant drop in positive cases means the county will move down at least to the “high risk” category next week, and likely to the “moderate risk” category, The North Central Public Health District confirmed Friday.

Wasco County has been in the “extreme risk” category since Gov. Kate Brown created the four-level risk framework in late November.

]As a medium-sized county — those with 15,000 to 30,000 people — Wasco County is placed in a risk category based on its case count over a 14-day period. The “Extreme risk” case count is 60 or more. Wasco County was as high as 175 in early December.

In most recent 14-day count, covering Jan. 31 to Feb. 13 and announced on Tuesday, Wasco County had 53 cases. That was enough to drop it to “high risk” category, which is 45-59 cases over 14 days. (Moderate risk is 30 to 44 cases over 14 days.)

• However, risk category changes only happen every other week. Next week is a change week.

Wasco County has recorded just 27 cases since Feb. 7, which is the beginning of the upcoming 14-day period ending Feb. 20.

New category changes will be announced Tuesday, Feb. 23, with the change taking effect Friday, Feb. 26.

Dropping from “extreme” to “high” category would allow in-person dining at 25 percent capacity; gyms to have 25 percent capacity; and in-person visits at long term care facilities. Dropping to the “moderate” risk category allows 50 percent in-person dining capacity; and 50 percent capacity at gyms. Churches can have 50 percent indoor capacity.

North Central Public Health District Health Officer Dr. Miriam McDonell said the drop in cases is a combination of several factors, including the end of the holiday case surge and an increasing county vaccination rate, which is now at 12 percent of the population.

McDonell also credited the public with following the extreme risk category guidance, and “the continued good work of people to stay six feet apart and wear a mask.”

Vaccinations are key to ending the pandemic, she added. In the meantime, residents are asked to continue to wear a mask, stay six feet apart from those not in your household, avoid gatherings, wash your hands and stay home when sick.