Oregon Health Authority Issues Joint Statement with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation on COVID-19 Data

The Oregon Health Authority reports that the addition of approximately 1,400 COVID-19 laboratory reports from Umatilla County on Saturday, Feb. 20 will not affect the county’s risk level status. The past cases covering a seven-month period had been investigated and had previously not been electronically recorded by the agency.

OHA has been receiving weekly data from Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center. In the fall of 2020, after the state agency moved away from manual data entry toward the electronic file submission an error occurred, which did not include tabulating the 1,400 records from Yellowhawk in its state COVID-19 case count. OHA regrets the error and has since been working closely with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to prevent these errors from happening again.

“The accurate collection and accounting of all COVID-19 case data informs OHA’s ongoing response to COVID-19, and we are committed to informing the public when we identify any oversight,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state public health officer and epidemiologist. “When we identified the issue, we worked to correct our methods of capturing case data, and we want to thank the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation for the work they are doing to provide their case and investigation data to us.”

As an entity of a sovereign nation, the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center is not required to report COVID-19 test results to OHA but chose to report their data weekly since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We decided to be transparent with our data because we realize this will be an important part to fighting the virus and protect not only residents of the Umatilla Indian Reservation but our community, county and state,” said Lisa Guzman, chief executive officer for the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center.

As OHA reported, these test results date from June 2020 through January 2021. The cases were appropriately investigated and interviewed at the time of their positive test. The test results had been shared electronically with OHA during that time by the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center’s laboratory but were not captured by OHA due to data processing issues.

The county’s reopening metrics are not being changed or impacted because of the addition of the new case data. County Risk Levels are updated every two weeks in response to how COVID-19 is spreading in communities, at the county level.

Currently, Umatilla County is listed at an extreme risk level based on having 446 cases per 100,000 residents. The county will be in high risk level starting Feb. 26, as countywide case rates dropped to 191 cases per 100,000 from Feb. 7 to Feb. 20. Risk Levels take effect on Friday and remain in effect for the next two weeks while this process repeats.

OHA acknowledges the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s ongoing efforts to boost community immunity among its members, employees, employee family members and non-Indian residents who live on the reservation. Today is the second day of a mass vaccination event being held with the help of the Oregon National Guard. The tribe received 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from the Indian Health Service for the event.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are members of the Oregon Emergency Response System, which coordinates state resources in its response to emergencies involving multi-jurisdictional cooperation.