Governor Brown Press Release: Enforcement & Malheur on Watch List

Governor Kate Brown Launches July 4th Face Covering Enforcement Statewide for Restaurants, Bars, and Other Businesses

In light of rising COVID-19 case counts over the month of June, including a record-high 375 cases yesterday, Governor Kate Brown today announced stepped up enforcement statewide on face covering, physical distancing, and occupancy standards in place for businesses. The effort, led by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), will ensure restaurants, bars, and other businesses comply with COVID-related rules over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and thereafter.

She also added 8 Oregon counties to a Watch List for COVID-19: Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wasco. The spread of COVID-19 in these counties has risen to alarming levels in recent weeks. Analysis by the Oregon Health Authority showed alarmingly high per capita rates of case increases and community spread––cases where the infections are not attributable to a specific location or event. This community spread is a serious warning sign for health experts.

Counties on the Watch List will be monitored in the coming days while the Oregon Health Authority and local officials deploy additional capacity to control the spread of the disease. If the counties do not see a downturn quickly, restrictive measures such as business closures or tighter gathering size limits will ensue.

“I am asking Oregonians this holiday weekend to take urgent steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing face coverings, avoiding large gatherings, and physically distancing,” said Governor Kate Brown. “And state enforcement agencies will be out in force to ensure businesses are in compliance. Those businesses not complying with gathering size limits, face covering requirements, physical distancing rules, and other standards face stiff penalties.”

Staff from the OLCC, supported by OSHA field offices across the state, will be conducting spot checks and inspections all over Oregon during the holiday weekend to ensure restaurants, bars, other businesses, and their patrons are complying with state alcohol laws, OLCC rules, and the requirement to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces. The compliance effort comes after the state reached a new record of 375 new cases of COVID-19 across the state on Thursday.

For businesses that refuse to comply, OSHA and OLCC staff are empowered to take administrative action including issuing citations, fines, and Red Warning Notices if necessary. Red Warning Notices apply to businesses that appear to be in willful violation of the Governor’s executive orders or who refuse to take corrective measures. Such businesses are closed until the hazardous condition is remedied. Violation of a Red Warning Notice results in stiff penalties.

The Governor added, “We stand at a crossroads this weekend––we can either stop the spread of COVID-19, or infections and hospitalizations will rise across Oregon and I will reinstate restrictive measures in impacted counties and business sectors.”

Source: July 3, 2020 Press Release: Office of the Governor Kate Brown

Positive Test Rate Tops 10%

Today, the Malheur County Health Department reported 31 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 191. Two people are hospitalized. The rate of positive tests of total tests completed for today is 10.1%. We need to be below 5% positive tests to know we’re doing sufficient testing. This tells us we have significant increase in infections and that there are likely more cases out there that we have not identified.

The Oregon Department of Human Services reports on nursing, residential care and assisted living facilities reporting that they have a staff member or resident with COVID-19. Their recent report lists Brookdale in Ontario. The Malheur County Health Department completed surveillance testing earlier this week and today’s cases include positive cases from that testing. A total of 26 cases between staff and residents are connected to the care facility.

The Oregon Department of Corrections is reporting 7 COVID-19 positive cases of staff and 1 positive case of an Adult in Custody at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) in Ontario.

Due to such a concerning surge in overall cases and cases in high risk settings, Public Health officials are urging every person to follow the guidance to wear face coverings, maintain physical distance, avoid large gatherings, and stay home with even mild symptoms.

How severe is the pandemic in our community?

How severe is the spread of COVID-19 in our community? Though state and local dashboards provide lots of numbers, it’s often unclear how to interpret them — and hard to compare them to other places.

Researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute are leading a collaboration of top scientists who have joined forces to create a unified set of metrics, including a shared definition of risk levels — and tools for communities to fight the coronavirus.

The collaboration launched these tools Wednesday, including a new, online risk-assessment map that allows people to check the state or the county where they live and see a COVID-19 risk rating of green, yellow, orange or red.

Payette County, Idaho and Malheur County, Oregon are both in the red zone, showing the highest level of risk of more than 25 new daily cases per 100,000 people. This indicates unchecked community spread and according to the Harvard Global Health Institute, “stay at home orders are necessary.”

At the red level, “jurisdictions have reached a tipping point for uncontrolled spread,” according to the collaborative’s guidance. At this level, “you really need to be back at a stay-at-home advisory,” said Ellie Graeden of the Center for Global Health, Science and Security at Georgetown University, which is part of the group that developed the metrics.

To learn more from the Harvard Global Health Institute, read their Key Metrics for COVID Suppression, which explains how they assess core metrics for the data used in the interactive map.

It’s important that everyone who lives in Malheur County and our neighboring high risk communities understand the what a critical moment we are in to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read and share guidance from Safe Strong Oregon and other reputable sources and talk with your household about how your actions can reduce the risk for your family and our county.

Article adapted from NPR.

File a Complaint with OSHA

We have been receiving a lot of calls about businesses not enforcing face coverings or other compliance concerns. The Malheur County Health Department can not take the lead on all enforcement and asks that you first file a complaint with OSHA. If you still see violations, call our office at 541-889-7279 after you have filed an OSHA complaint and seen an additional concern and we will follow up.

Visit the OSHA website to file a complaint. Towards the top of the page is a paragraph, “We recommend that employees first attempt to resolve safety and health issues by reporting them to their supervisors, managers, or to their employer’s safety and health committee,” followed by:

Complaint form  English   Spanish

You can also contact the OSHA Bend Field Office at 541-388-6066.

Oregon OSHA workplace guidance and resources for COVID-19 (en español).

Wear A Face Covering. Save Lives.

Image may contain: text that says '6同 PROTECT OUR COMMUNITY: MASK UP.'

Let’s show our neighbors and businesses that we care about them by following the prevention guidelines, including wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces. With more than 3,300 COVID-19 positive cases reported within 100 miles of Malheur County, it’s especially important for everyone who lives, works, worships, plays, and shops in our community to wear a face covering, wash hands, and keep 6′ distance from people you don’t live with. We know how to flatten the curve of this surge in cases. Help us! We’re in this together.

Face Coverings Required Statewide

Masks required statewide effective July first

Face coverings are required for indoor public spaces in every county effective July 1st. Children under 12 years of age, as well as people with a disability or a medical condition that prevent them from wearing a face covering, are not required to wear one.

En todo el estado cubrebocas requerido effectivo el 1 de Julio

Governor Kate Brown Extends Face Coverings Requirement Statewide

Face covering requirements apply to indoor public spaces, take effect on Wednesday, July 1.

Governor Kate Brown announced today that Oregonians statewide will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, beginning this Wednesday July 1. The guidance applies to businesses and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces. Face covering requirements are already mandated in eight counties.

“From the beginning of the reopening process, I have said that reopening comes with the risk of seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases beyond our health systems’ capacity to test, trace, and isolate them,” said Governor Kate Brown. “Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties. The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference.

“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks.

“The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.

“Face coverings that cover your nose and mouth play a critical role in reducing the spread of this disease because droplets from our breath can carry the virus to others without us realizing it. If we all wear face coverings, practice six feet of physical distancing in public, wash our hands regularly, and stay home when we are sick, then we can avoid the worst-case scenarios that are now playing out in other states.

“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing. If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.

“Please keep your Fourth of July celebrations small and local. We saw a lot of new COVID-19 cases following the Memorial Day holiday. Another spike in cases after the upcoming holiday weekend could put Oregon in a dangerous position.

“Oregonians have all made incredible sacrifices over the last several months that have saved thousands of lives. The actions we take now can protect our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and fellow Oregonians from this disease, and prevent the need for another statewide shutdown. We are truly all in this together.”

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will take the lead, along with other state and local agencies, in enforcing face covering requirements for all covered Oregon businesses.

OHA Guidance

We anticipate that the county-specific face covering guidance will be extended statewide, including for businesses. For the public, the guidance is copied below.

  • Customers and visitors of businesses are required to:
    • Wear a mask, face shield, or face covering when at a business unless the individual:
      • Is under 12 years of age.
      • Has a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe when wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.
      • Has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.
  • Customers and visitors of businesses between the ages of 0 and 12 years old:
    • Children under the age of two (2) are not required to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering.
    • It is strongly recommended that children between two (2) and 12 years of age, wear a mask, face shield, or face covering at all times in all indoor spaces open to the public, particularly in places where it is likely that physical distancing of at least six (6) feet from other individuals outside their household unit cannot be maintained, and where vulnerable people may go.
    • Because children between the ages of two (2) and 12 years of age can have challenges wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering properly (e.g., excessively touching the face covering, not changing the face covering if visibly soiled, risk of strangulation or suffocation, etc.) we urge that if masks, face shields or face coverings are worn by this age group, that they be worn with the assistance and close supervision of an adult. Masks, face shields, or face coverings should never be worn by children when sleeping.
  • Indoor spaces open to the public:
    • Individuals visiting indoor spaces open to the public are required to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering unless the individual:
      • Is under 12 years of age.
      • Has a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe when wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.
      • Has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.

Expanded COVID-19 Testing Criteria Addresses Disparities

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is following new Oregon Health Authority (OHA) revised COVID-19 testing guidelines to prioritize underserved populations and improve equity. The new criteria include expanded symptoms and testing for people without symptoms who are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce offers free testing to individuals who meet the revised criteria at several upcoming drive up testing sites.

Please share these bilingual flyers for the upcoming drive-up test sites:

Expanded Criteria

If you have any of the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever or chills, vomiting, diarrhea, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell, you should isolate at home, call your health care provider, and get tested.

If you identify as Black, African-American, Latino, Latina, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander, identify as having a disability or if your first language is not English, you are encouraged to get tested.

Addressing Disparities

In the most recent OHA Weekly Update, the severity and rates of COVID-19 by race and ethnicity were reported:

  • Race: White: Cases per 10,000: 7.1
  • Race: Black: Cases per 10,000: 26.1
  • Race: Asian: Cases per 10,000: 12
  • Race: American Indian: Cases per 10,000: 26.3
  • Race: Pacific Islander: Cases per 10,000: 78.3
  • Ethnicity: Hispanic: Cases per 10,000: 37.2
  • Ethnicity: Non-Hispanic: Cases per 10,000: 8.3

MCHD is committed to reducing inequalities and promoting precautions that will protect everyone in Malheur County. Communities of color are being hit tremendously hard by COVID-19. The reason people are encouraged to be tested, even without symptoms, is because of the disparities experienced by groups that have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic. In an effort to provide equitable care, more access to testing is needed for those who experience health, economic, and social conditions that put them at higher risk for contracting the virus and of developing more severe illness or death.

It is helpful to note that race is a self-identification of a social group, according to the U.S. Census. Race has a long history of being used to divide members of society and it is worthwhile to keep in context that disparities exist because of historic discrimination, collective and transgenerational trauma, and continued inequities.

In Malheur County, we are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Sixteen percent of our population has a disability and 38.6% identify as not-white, not-Hispanic. People who identify as Hispanic make up 13% of the population of Oregon, yet represent 40% of cases. Idaho is reporting similar disparities. With high rates of chronic health conditions, poverty, drug use, and housing units with more people than rooms, the impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated the negative social determinants of health that diminish our community well-being.

“We know that these racial ethnic disparities in COVID-19 are the result of pre-pandemic realities. It’s a legacy of structural discrimination that has limited access to health and wealth for people of color,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale School of Medicine. People of color have higher rates of underlying conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, that are linked to more severe cases of COVID-19. They also often have less access to quality health care, and are disproportionately represented in essential frontline jobs that can’t be done from home, increasing their exposure to the virus.

The Oregon public health response addresses disparities. Contact Tracers help to meet basic needs of those who are isolated or quarantined because of COVID-19, including connection to resources for food, wage support, and temporary housing when needed. Local Community Based Organizations, other county departments, and health care providers are also building trust, sharing culturally responsive resources in multiple languages, and providing wrap around services for those in need.

It is critical that the public not use this information to stigmatize any part of the population. COVID-19 is not an “Us vs. Them” problem as the impacts have reached all parts of public life and it is only through collective impact that we will improve the health outcomes for all. We’re a better country when we make sure everyone has a chance to meet their potential. We’re a country founded on the ideals of opportunity and equality and we have a real responsibility to live up to those values. Health disparities are an injury to our values and we need to do everything in our power to provide equity and build a stronger community.

Sources and Recommended Reading:


How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home

Follow these tips for cleaning and disinfecting your home, especially if someone has COVID-19 or other respiratory virus.


  • Clean first, then disinfect.
  • Wear reusable or disposable gloves for routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Clean surfaces using soap and water, then use disinfectant.
  • Cleaning with soap and water reduces number of germs, dirt and impurities on the surface. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces.
  • Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. High touch surfaces include:
    • Tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.


  • Use a household disinfectant and follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. 
  • Always read and follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use.
  • You should never eat, drink, breathe or inject these products into your body or apply directly to your skin as they can cause serious harm. Do not wipe or bathe pets with these products or any other products that are not approved for animal use.
  • Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface.
    • Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection and has a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5%–6%.
    • Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute.
  • To make a bleach solution, mix:
    • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of room temperature water OR 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of room temperature water
  • Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours.
  • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.

Soft surfaces

For soft surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes.

  • Clean the surface using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces.
  • Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions.Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely OR disinfect with an EPA-registered household disinfectant. 
  • Vacuum as usual


For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, and remote controls.

  • Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instruction for cleaning and disinfecting.
    • If no guidance, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol. Dry surface thoroughly.


For clothing, towels, linens and other items.

  • Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
  • Wear disposable gloves if possible when handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick.
  • Dirty laundry from a person who is sick can be washed with other people’s items.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to guidance above for surfaces.
  • Remove gloves, and wash hands right away.

Clean hands often

  • Key times to clean hands
    • Immediately after removing gloves and after contact with a person who is sick.
    • After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After using the restroom
    • Before eating or preparing food
    • After contact with animals or pets
    • Before and after providing routine care for another person who needs assistance (e.g. a child)
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not readily available and hands are not visibly dirty, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
  • Always read and follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use.
    • Keep hand sanitizers away from fire or flame
    • For children under six years of age, hand sanitizer should be used with adult supervision
    • Always store hand sanitizer out of reach of children and pets
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

When someone is sick

Bedroom and bathroom

Keep separate bedroom and bathroom for a person who is sick (if possible).

  • The person who is sick should stay separated from other people in the home (as much as possible).
  • If you have a separate bedroom and bathroom: Wear disposable gloves and only clean the area around the person who is sick when needed, such as when the area is soiled. This will help limit your contact with the person who is sick.
    • Caregivers can provide personal cleaning supplies to the person who is sick (if appropriate). Supplies include tissues, paper towels, cleaners, and disinfectant. If they feel up to it, the person who is sick can clean their own space.
  • If shared bathroom: The person who is sick should clean and disinfect after each use. If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting.
  • See precautions for household members and caregivers for more information.


  • Stay separated: The person who is sick should eat (or be fed) in their room if possible.
  • Wash dishes and utensils using disposable gloves and hot water: Handle any used dishes, cups/glasses, or silverware with gloves. Wash them with soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
  • Clean hands after taking off gloves or handling used items.


  • Dedicated, lined trash can: If possible, dedicate a lined trash can for the person who is sick. Use disposable gloves when removing garbage bags, and handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands afterwards.

Cases By Zip Code

The Oregon Health Authority continues to publish Weekly Reports under the Situation in Oregon section on the OHA COVID-19 website with information about positive cases, including zip code.

The goal of releasing the data is to help people better understand the extent of community-based spread of the virus. The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) and OHA are committed to being transparent and accountable to all the communities we serve.

OHA acknowledges privacy concerns that may exist as the release of data could potentially lead to the identity of cases. OHA is taking steps to protect privacy of patients by combining data. If a zip code’s population is less than 1000, then OHA combines zip codes and report the aggregate case count. Also, if there are less than 10 cases in a zip code, then OHA reports “1-9.”

For Malheur County, the June 17, 2020 Weekly Report shows COVID-19 cases in all three main cities. These numbers report the total case counts up to June 17th.

  • For 97914 (Ontario), there are 29 cases.
  • For 97913 (Nyssa), there are between 1-9 cases.
  • For 97918 (Vale), there are between 1-9 cases.
  • There are 183 cases statewide in zip codes with less than 1,000 population. We can confirm that there have been cases in towns of less than 1,000 in Malheur County.

Help us prevent an outbreak by staying vigilant and encouraging your household members to do the following:

  • Stay home if you have even mild symptoms and call your health care provider to find out if you should be tested.
  • Practice good hand hygiene with frequent hand washing or use hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs/sneezes with elbow or tissue.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Practice physical distancing of at least six feet between you and others not in your household.
  • Use cloth face coverings in public. It may be difficult to ensure that you can stay six feet away from others at all times. If you need a face covering, contact our office at 541-889-7279.