Recent high daily COVID-19 case counts in Wasco County are not due to significant outbreaks but rather to the rapidly increasing spread of the disease and its prevalence in the community, according to a Dec. 22 press release from North Central Public Health District (NCPHD.)

Risk for everyone is higher, the release said, because with more people infected, the chance of coming into contact with an infected person is greater.

There were 259 cases in Wasco County in first three weeks of December; in comparison, it took six months for the first 250 cases to be reported in the county.

NCPHD also reported a third death at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles Dec. 21. The resident tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 14 and died the same day. An outbreak was first reported at the Oregon Veterans’ Home on Oct. 25, and 32 cases are connected to it. Three have died. The Wasco County resident was the 20th COVID-19 related death in the county.

NCPHD Epidemiologist Jeremy Hawkins said the disease in Wasco County is “much more widespread than at any point in the pandemic. We are seeing an increase of cases in individuals who have only had low or no identified risk factors for COVID-19 infection, which may be attributable to community spread.”

The health district gets numerous calls from people who want to know what their risk is given their specific circumstances, such as an exposure at a gathering. Now, Hawkins said, the risk is higher for everyone, given how widespread the disease is.

“The more people walking around infected, the more likely you are to come into contact with one of them," Hawkins said.

The district reported vaccines will be coming to our area in coming weeks, but only a narrow group of mostly healthcare-related workers, emergency responders and long term care residents are currently eligible to receive them.

“Vaccines are one tool to contain the pandemic, but other tools we’re accustomed to, such as wearing masks, keeping distance, avoiding gatherings, washing hands and staying home when sick remain our first line of defense,” the release stated.

More information is available on the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 page at, or contact NCPHD at 541-506-2600 or visit onine at or

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