Vaccination can begin for 12- to 15-year-olds in Oregon

The Oregon Health Authority has informed healthcare providers that COVID-19 vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds can begin today. The announcement followed unanimous confirmation on Wednesday by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for that age group. A Governor’s Office news release is available here.

The OHA has been working with healthcare providers, pharmacies, community-based organizations and school districts to make the Pfizer vaccine readily available for eligible youth throughout the state. Parental consent is required to vaccinate individuals ages 12-14. While youth age 15 and older may consent to medical care, including vaccinations, some providers may still require consent.

In Malheur County, Snake River Pediatrics is currently scheduling Pfizer vaccine appointments for youth ages 12 and older. Call 541-216-6556 for an appointment.

Valley Family Health Care is offering a Pfizer vaccine clinic for Oregon and Idaho residents age 12+ on Friday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. No appointment is needed, and recipients may choose walk-in or drive-up vaccination. The clinic will be held at the Highway Worship Center, 100 S. Whitley Dr., in Fruitland, Idaho.

Governor announces vaccination goals for reopening local economies

Governor Kate Brown today announced new metrics for reopening the economy, saying that when 70% of Oregonians 16 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, most risk-level restrictions would be lifted. She said she felt confident that the goal would be reached by the end of June. A Governor’s Office news release is available here.

Additionally, beginning May 21, counties that reach 65% vaccination of residents 16 and older will have the option to move to Lower Risk by submitting a plan to close equity gaps in vaccination. Two counties have already reached 65%, four are above 60%, and five are above 55%. In Malheur County, current data shows that just over 31% of the eligible population has been vaccinated. That number does not include the estimated 1,800 Malheur County residents who received a vaccine in Idaho but the additional doses, once factored in, still aren’t enough to hit the target.

“Best case is that 39% of our eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “That means we still have thousands of people who need to be vaccinated.”

The Governor’s announcement comes a day after the Oregon Health Authority posted the latest Risk Level Metrics report showing Malheur County’s two-week case count at 64, up from 37 the week prior. School outbreaks make up the majority of the cases, but there continues to be sporadic infection throughout the community as well. COVID-19-related deaths are also rising locally. Four people have died since mid-April: a female in her 50s, a female in her 80s, a male in his 60s, and a male in his 80s.

Gov. Brown also announced new county risk levels today. Malheur County will remain at High Risk. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.

Counties have new capacity limits for indoor recreation, entertainment

Under the direction of Gov. Kate Brown, capacity limits in counties that are at Moderate and High Risk are now updated for indoor recreation and entertainment. As of May 5, indoor entertainment establishments and indoor recreation and fitness establishments in all Oregon counties may allow the following:

  • Moderate Risk: Maximum 20% occupancy or 100 people total, whichever is larger
  • High Risk: Maximum 10% occupancy or 50 people total, whichever is larger

Lower and Extreme Risk capacity limits for these sectors remain the same.

Malheur County moved to High Risk today. To view the updated capacity limits, please refer to the Sector Risk Level Guidance Chart.

Today, State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger offered a recorded 2:38-minute video segment updating the COVID-19 situation in Oregon as we head into Mother’s Day weekend. As Oregon is confronted with new and highly transmissible variants, Dr. Sidelinger calls on all eligible Oregonians to get vaccinated. You can watch the full recording here.

We’re hiring great nurses!

The Malheur County Health Department is looking to fill at least two full-time registered nurse positions. This is a great opportunity to support and promote public health in the local community.

Public health RNs work in clinical, community, and home settings to provide a broad range of nursing services aimed at prevention, treatment, education, and health policy implementation. Areas of service include but are not limited to immunization, family planning, home visiting, communicable disease, general health education, and referral.

Successful candidates will be licensed RNs in good standing in the State of Oregon and possess a valid driver’s license. Past government experience, two years of nursing experience, and being bilingual in English and Spanish are helpful but not required. Nursing students who will obtain their RN license within six months are also invited to apply. Applications will be accepted through May 11.

Visit Malheur County Employment to learn more and apply.

Malheur County moving to High Risk following 35 new cases, 3 deaths

Thirty-five new COVID-19 cases over the two-week period from April 18 through May 1 will push Malheur County into the High Risk level of the state’s 4-tier risk assessment system this Friday. There were three lives lost to COVID-19 during that period, bringing the county’s total deaths to 61. The county’s rising numbers prompted a warning from Director of Environmental Health Craig Geddes.

“We are saddened by the loss of three more Malheur County residents to this virus, which continues to threaten not only lives but livelihoods,” Geddes said. “The current trend is extremely concerning. If our cases continue to climb and our vaccination rates continue to be low, we will continue to experience this kind of loss. We need everyone to take this seriously – continue to follow precautions and get vaccinated.”

Malheur County is one of 15 counties moving into High Risk on Friday. Thirteen of those are moving down a level, from Extreme Risk. A Governor’s Office announcement today stated that with the statewide seven-day average increase for hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients dropping below 15%, Oregon no longer meets the statewide metrics for the Extreme Risk level. In total, 24 counties will be at High Risk, four at Moderate Risk, and eight at Lower Risk. An Oregon Health Authority report showing two-week case counts and test positivity rates is available here. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.

High Risk guidance allows for indoor dining at eating and drinking establishments, but occupancy can’t exceed 25% or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Outdoor dining is limited to 120 people maximum. Seating per table is limited to six people from no more than two households. Closing time is 11 p.m. at the latest. Other restrictions beginning Friday:

  • For faith institutions, the recommended maximum indoor capacity is 25% of occupancy or 150 people, whichever is smaller; outdoor is 200 people maximum.
  • Indoor and outdoor shopping centers and malls are limited to 50% of maximum occupancy; curbside pick-up is encouraged.
  • Indoor entertainment establishments are limited to 25% occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Closing time is 11 p.m. at the latest. Outdoor entertainment establishments are limited to a maximum of 15% capacity. Closing time is 11 p.m. at the latest
  • Indoor recreation & fitness establishments are limited to 25% occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller; outdoor is 15% capacity.
  • Retail stores are limited to 50% maximum capacity; curbside pick-up is encouraged.
  • Social and at-home gatherings indoors are limited to a maximum of 6 people with a recommended limit of 2 households; outdoor is a maximum of 8 people.

Malheur County’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is second-lowest in the state, behind Umatilla County. As of May 3, 24.8% of Malheur County residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 20.9% have completed the series, meaning they have received a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer. Respective statewide averages are 42.9% and 30.0%.

Since Sunday, May 2, after the reporting period that moved the county into High Risk, through today, an additional 14 cases have been reported.

More information on vaccination rates by county can be found here.

The full selection of Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 data dashboards is available here.

Weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics will offer Johnson & Johnson through May

The Malheur County Health Department and Incident Command team will offer Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine in addition to second doses of Moderna at its weekly clinics beginning this Thursday, May 6.

The clinics are scheduled every Thursday through May. Hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. through May 20, with extended hours from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on May 27.

For more information, visit our Events Calendar, or give us a call at 541-889-7279.

With cases surging, Governor urges Oregonians to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated

Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today to provide an update on the status of COVID-19 in Oregon. The conference addressed the recent increase in cases and hospitalizations: 

  • Cases have increased 20% or more for the last five weeks. 
  • Oregon is the state with the highest rate of increase in cases over the last two weeks. 
  • Hospitalizations are increasing at almost double what they were a week ago.  
  • The portion of hospitalized cases of people who are 18 to 34 has increased by almost 50 percent. 

“As we are facing widespread cases, driven by new, more contagious variants, I was presented with data showing two paths Oregon could take: One in which we took no additional action and stood by while more people die from this disease, and another that required a temporary tightening of restrictions for certain counties but could save hundreds of lives and prevent as many as 450 hospitalizations over the next three weeks. As your governor, I chose to save lives,” Gov. Brown said.

“There is some good news. The same scientific modeling also shows that over the course of the next two-to-three weeks, based on current vaccination rates, we can get ahead of these variants. Following that trajectory, we should be able to lift restrictions statewide and return to a sense of normalcy no later than the end of June.”

A Governor’s Office press release from today’s conference is available here.

Governor extends state of emergency amid COVID-19 surge, hospitalizations

… the overwhelming majority of our new COVID-19 cases are from people who have not yet been vaccinated. Younger, unvaccinated Oregonians are now showing up in our hospitals with severe cases of COVID-19.

Gov. Kate Brown

Governor Kate Brown today extended her declaration of a state of emergency for COVID-19 for 60 days, until June 28, 2021, unless earlier rescinded or extended.

The declaration is the legal underpinning for the Governor’s COVID-19 executive orders and the Oregon Health Authority’s health and safety guidance; it also provides additional flexibility for the state and private parties responding to the challenges of the pandemic, from allowing restaurants to offer cocktails-to-go to allowing greater flexibility in who may administer vaccines. Extending the state of emergency also helps ensure Oregon is able to fully utilize available federal COVID-19 relief and assistance, including assistance with vaccine distribution.

The full press release is available here.

Malheur County will return to Moderate Risk on Friday

Twenty-five COVID-19 cases over the two-week period from April 11-24 are enough to send Malheur County back into Moderate Risk this Friday. A Governor’s Office press release on Tuesday urged Oregonians to get vaccinated as case counts rise throughout the state.

Malheur County is one of 18 counties moving to a higher risk level this week following cancelation of the state’s warning week; 15 of them are moving to Extreme Risk. Under the risk level framework, explained here, counties move to or remain in Extreme Risk when they meet the county metrics for test positivity and case rates, and Oregon meets statewide hospitalization metrics: COVID-19-positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the past week. 

 “If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” Gov. Kate Brown said.

Gov. Brown is partnering with lawmakers to approve a $20 million small business emergency relief package to immediately support impacted businesses in Extreme Risk counties.

In Malheur County, restaurant owners received an email on Tuesday from Environmental Health Director Craig Geddes regarding the upcoming risk level change and resulting restrictions on capacity and services:

  • Indoor seating is allowed at 50% occupancy and maximum capacity of 100 people
  • Groups of no more than 6 people
  • Outdoor dining with up to 150 people
  • 11 p.m. closing time

Other affected sectors include social and at-home gatherings, indoor and outdoor recreation and fitness, indoor and outdoor entertainment, faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, cemeteries, and offices. Detailed Moderate Risk guidance is available here.

Gov. Brown encouraged Oregonians to keep their gatherings limited to outdoor settings. “Indoor transmission is a key driver in the COVID-19 surge that is making renewed health and safety restrictions necessary,” she said.

In an effort to speed up the return to normal business operations, county risk levels will be updated weekly for at least the next three weeks. Counties that improve their COVID-19 metrics will have the opportunity to move to a lower risk level. Those at Extreme Risk will remain there for a maximum of three weeks.

The Malheur County Health Department joins the Governor in encouraging all eligible Oregonians to get vaccinated. “With 14 cases in just the last three days, we are unfortunately seeing the result of more people not following the precautions of wearing masks and avoiding gatherings combined with a slow-down in the number of people protected by the COVID-19 vaccines,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said. “The variants of SARS-CoV-2 are far more transmissible and are leading to more outbreaks and hospitalizations in both Idaho and Oregon. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of protecting those who are most vulnerable to save lives and getting vaccinated to prevent outbreaks. Talk to those you love about the importance of vaccination and call your pharmacy, healthcare provider, or the health department for help getting the vaccine to the eligible people in your life.”

Governor may cancel warning week to fight fourth surge of COVID-19 cases

Governor Kate Brown today announced that the cancelation of the state’s warning week system may be necessary next week to combat the COVID-19 crisis Oregon currently faces. She said that a fourth surge of cases has arrived and that right now, in a race between vaccines and variants, “the variants are gaining ground and have the upper hand. Today’s cases topped 1,000, with Oregon now ranking second in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread.”

Oregon hospitals are about to surpass 300 patients who are positive for COVID-19, crossing the threshold that would place at least 12 counties into the extreme risk level. These counties would be required to reinstate restrictions associated with the highest risk level, including closure of restaurants and bars to indoor dining and nursing homes to indoor visits. Malheur County is currently not likely to be among them, but the warning week has twice kept the county from moving to a higher level of the state’s four-tier system. Gov. Brown said the data will be analyzed again early next week before determinations are made.

Vaccines are the key to moving Oregon forward and preventing Malheur County from returning to the higher or extreme risk levels. The overwhelming majority of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are among people who are not vaccinated, and the virus is affecting younger people and those with no underlying medical conditions. Common-sense safety measures like mask wearing and maintaining 6 feet of distance will need to stay in place for a while longer, until the majority of Oregonians are vaccinated. Gov. Brown said she believes the state will be able to lift most restrictions and fully reopen the economy no later than the end of June. “We will all need to make smart choices over the next several weeks so that we can move forward and into post-pandemic life.”

About half of all Oregonians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said today. Malheur County, with about 23% of its population vaccinated, has the second-to-lowest vaccination rate in the state.

A video of today’s press conference is available here. The conference begins at the 28:20 mark.