Malheur County Announces First Positive Case of COVID-19

The Malheur County Health Department today announced Malheur County’s first laboratory-confirmed positive case of COVID-19. The person is a male Malheur County resident in his 20s and is not hospitalized. He is quarantined and recovering at home. Public health investigation is underway.

Malheur County is in close coordination with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Test results are now coming from multiple laboratories and are delivered electronically to providers, counties, and OHA throughout the day. As a result, some counties may release county data sooner than it is reported by the OHA.

“Our primary concern is the health and well-being of this person and the people close to him. Our thoughts are with them and we wish him a speedy recovery. We have excellent health care providers in Malheur County who are coordinating with our emergency preparedness team and doing all they can to care for their patients. I have confidence in the quality of care available, but it is important that all of us do our part to ensure that health care providers don’t have to care for more people than the system can handle at one time,” said Malheur County Health Department Director, Sarah Poe. “That means the goal is not to make sure that no one is infected with this virus, but that we prevent it from spreading too quickly. Without a vaccine and without specific treatment, our best bet as a community is to slow the transmission so those who have a severe case can get the care they need from our health system. As the state’s ability to test for COVID-19 increases, so will the number of positive cases. Testing has been limited and we can only test those who meet a high-criteria which is why we need everyone staying home to save lives.”

 For more information:

MCHD COVID-19 Update

The Malheur County Health Department is still open for limited services. Please be sure to call before coming in: 541-889-7279.

The Malheur County Courthouse in Vale is open by appointment only. Call the department needed and do your business by phone, email, or mail, if possible. You can find each department’s contact information HERE.

We have a new page, “COVID-19 Cases,” to report the current case count. We will update daily Monday-Friday until there is a positive case and then report on weekends additionally. Very briefly this morning the page listed an incorrect number and we apologize to anyone who accessed the page and saw an incorrect posting. We currently have 19 confirmed negative tests and 0 positive.

FEMA has started a Coronavirus Rumor Control page. One myth dispelled is that there would be a national lock down. We have heard local rumors that there will be a lock down between Oregon and Idaho and people will not be able to cross the border. That is NOT true. People are not being stopped driving and can cross the border from Idaho to Oregon and Oregon to Idaho. We do ask that people stay home and only travel for essential business and needs.

Questions? Call us at 541-889-7279 or email sarah.poe@malheurco.org.

Guidance Following Nearby COVID-19 Cases

Positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and are increasing across Idaho and Oregon. We should assume COVID-19 is in our community and follow the Stay Home, Save Lives order by Governor Kate Brown. More information can be found at healthoregon.org/coronavirus. We encourage our neighbors in Idaho to follow the same recommendations. The Malheur County Health Department has received several calls with questions about the positive COVID-19 case reported in Payette County yesterday. Case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released. We are working with the people at highest risk in Malheur County who are connected to the case and they are cooperating and quarantined. If you think you had direct or secondary exposure to a positive case, you do not need to call and likely do not need to be tested without symptoms. Testing capacity remains extremely limited nation-wide and the criteria for screening is high. This is why every person in Oregon is required to follow the Stay Home, Save Lives order, including significant social distancing, and should be practicing quarantine to the extent possible. Oregon is doing what research has proven works to flatten the curve of transmission. As part of social distancing, we encourage everyone to stay home, except travel for essential activities that cannot be conducted remotely. Social distancing measures reduce opportunities for person-to-person virus transmission and can help delay and slow the spread of the disease, as well as save lives. We appreciate help in this effort.

Many people are interested in testing for COVID-19 out of concern for themselves and their loved ones. Healthcare providers may decide to have you first tested for other illnesses, like the flu, based on your possible exposure history and any other symptoms you might have. Individuals who feel very ill should seek appropriate care. If it is an emergency, call 911. If it is not an emergency but you feel sick enough to need a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office. If you don’t have a doctor, call 211 for a list of clinics near you. If necessary, call your local urgent care center. It is crucial to call before you go. If you have flu-like symptoms or have reason to think you might have COVID-19, let your healthcare provider know when you call. This will help avoid exposing anyone else at the provider’s facility.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you continue to follow the existing guidelines to stay away from other people. If you get a fever, cough or trouble breathing, consult with your doctor or a clinic by phone only if you need care and cannot manage your symptoms at home. If someone in your home is sick, isolate them within your household as much as possible. Please keep them to their own bedroom (and own bathroom if possible), have dedicated dishes and utensils, and increase frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of areas where the symptomatic person has been. Of course, provide care and do your best to communicate while maintaining at least six-foot distance. We understand that not all these recommendations are possible when caring for children, which is why it is important that whole households quarantine when someone is sick.

We hope to be able to test more people soon once testing is more available, but until then, mild symptoms and possible or secondary exposure do not necessarily qualify you for a test. You can protect your family and your community by doing self-quarantine for 14 days if you think you have been exposed. It is not unreasonable to recognize that each of us should be practicing quarantine to the extent possible because we have community-spread in surrounding counties. Quarantine means you stay away from other people for a time when you may become sick with an infection, even if you have no symptoms. Quarantine includes doing the following:

  • Checking one’s temperature twice a day.
  • Avoiding places where many people gather, including stores, workplaces, and schools.
  • Staying off transportation like planes, trains, and buses.
  • Calling your healthcare provider if you have fever, cough, or trouble breathing and tell them about your symptoms and possible exposure.

​Following the social distance guidelines of six-feet between people is important to prevent the transmission of the virus. People could be infected and not show any symptoms, so it is critical that we all follow the six-foot rule at all times possible. Think of the size of an adult bike and visualize that distance between you and other people. Keep this distance from others if you go to or work in an essential business, if ever in line, when in small groups, and even at home when possible. ​​It may sound simple, but soap and water, used properly, are extremely effective and may be the best tool we have to control COVID-19.​

Southwest District Health Confirms Positive COVID-19 Case in Payette County

The Malheur County Health Department can confirm that an Ontario, Oregon business has reported an employee received a laboratory confirmed positive test for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The person who tested positive is a resident of Payette County, Southwest District Health has confirmed. The person is a female in her 20s. The individual in this case experienced mild symptoms and recovered at home.  The point of transmission is under investigation by both Southwest District Health and the Malheur County Health Department. Additional case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released.  

As of today at 3:30 p.m., there were 18 negative and 0 positive COVID-19 laboratory confirmed tests reported in Malheur County. We will continue to report daily on additional test results.

Call 211 or the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 during business hours with questions. Call your health care provider if you experience symptoms and need care.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, it is essential to self-isolate when you are sick, even at home, stay at least six feet away from other people, and follow Stay Home, Save Lives guidelines:  govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19. Additional information on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 can be found at: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html. For more Oregon specific information on COVID-19, visit healthoregon.org/coronavirus.

Call for COVID-19 Info

The Malheur County Health Department has designated staff assigned to answering questions about COVID-19. Call 541-889-7279 Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, our Peer Dispatch Line is still available 7 days a week during this crisis. Call 541-709-8539 for confidential support and resources.

Please note that we can not diagnose or provide medical advice over the phone and ask that everyone call their primary care provider if they are sick, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or need care. We can give referrals to providers if you do not have a primary care home and have OHP Application Assisters if you do not have health insurance.

Besides calling the Health Department, calling 211 is an excellent option and has additional hours. 211 is the go-to public phone number to get information about Novel Coronavirus. This program is a partnership with Oregon Health Authority. Also visit the 211 website at 211info.org.

211info Community Information Specialists answer informational COVID-19 questions about the following:

  • Symptoms
  • Prevention
  • Transmission
  • Treatment
  • Travel health
  • Animals/pets
  • Persons under investigation and/or monitoring

Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest updates on Novel Coronavirus across the United States and globally.

To speak with a 211 Community Information Specialist about Novel Coronavirus:

CALL 211 or 1-866-698-6155
TEXT your zip code to 898211 (TXT211)
EMAIL help@211info.org
HOURS 7 days per week, 8am-11pm  

Business Social Distancing Essential to Slow COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated 3/23/20 to reflect updated cases and state guidance that the distance maintained should be at least SIX feet between people.

On March 22nd, the Oregon Health Authority announced 24 new COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing the state total to 161, including a case in Grant County, bordering part of Malheur County. Five lives have been lost to COVID-19 in Oregon. Idaho reported a total of 47 cases on March 22nd, including a case in Canyon County, less than 30 miles from Ontario. With an increasing number of positive cases affecting every state in the union, the likelihood of an outbreak across Malheur County increases each day.

Malheur County is stepping up measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 with a Multi-Agency Coordination System and Incident Command, as the numbers of deaths and infections continue to grow in the state. The Malheur County Health Department has a response team dedicated to COVID-19 and is providing health resources, guidance, and technical assistance to partners while public health staff continue to provide essential services, adapting to social distancing guidelines.

All Oregon businesses and organizations have been asked to modify their practices to reduce gatherings and consider alternate approaches to work schedules and duties to reduce contact. Businesses are urged to assess their practices, implement strong social distancing measures, and close their doors temporarily if they cannot put the new guidance in place.

We remind all businesses to do the following:

  • Follow all Executive Orders of the Governor, including prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink
  • Implement social distancing protocols of at least six feet between customers ordering, waiting, or in line.
  • Follow the CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations
  • Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough hand washing.
  • Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home.
  • Create and follow an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan. For assistance, review the CDC Guidance for Businesses.

Our highest priority is the health and safety of our community. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, to protect Malheur County residents who are at highest risk for contracting the disease, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity, it is necessary for every single person to follow social distancing and community mitigation measures.

For more information on COVID-19:

Malheur County Court Signs Emergency Declaration

This morning, County Commissioners Larry Wilson, Don Hodge, and Judge Dan Joyce signed a Declaration of Emergency for Malheur County in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We need to be as prepared as possible to help keep our community safe,” said Judge Dan Joyce. “This emergency declaration will help us to best serve our residents. We appreciate the public working with us to protect public health and minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

The declaration specifically authorizes the County to:

  • Seek state and federal assistance and potential reimbursement for local funds spent on COVID-19 response;
  • Use streamlined processes for purchasing goods and services as allowed under Oregon law during emergency situations; and
  • Follow emergency plans and procedures as may be needed to protect the public health.

In addition, the County’s emergency operations center (EOC) has been partially activated to assist the Health Department with multi-agency coordination, public information and community outreach. The activation also provides a venue for mobilizing resources and developing plans across multiple Malheur County departments.

“The Emergency Declaration and EOC will help us support County staff, first responders, and healthcare partners so we can quickly respond and utilize all available resources to best protect the health of our community,” said Malheur County Emergency Manager Rich Harriman.

Malheur County employees will remain on the job and working to fulfill the obligations of the County. All departments are implementing recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority, such as increased cleaning, social distancing, and teleconferencing where possible. Sick employees have been asked to stay home.

Members of the public who need to access County offices are encouraged to conduct as much business as possible online, by phone, or by mail. Appointments can be made for necessary and time-sensitive business that cannot be handled over the phone, internet or through the mail. Members of the public are asked to please call the respective office first so that staff can provide assistance over the phone and online and to request an appointment if necessary. Measures will be taken to enhance social distancing and minimize the number of visitors in our offices at one time. Public appointments and screening procedures are subject to change due to the rapidly-changing nature of the COVID-19 outbreak. Updated information particular to each office can be found on the County website at malheurco.org.

“The Malheur County Court is committed to making every effort to stop and prevent the spread of the virus to our citizens,” said Commissioner Don Hodge. “We encourage everyone to limit their contacts in the community in the days ahead and conduct as much business as possible online, by phone, or through the mail.”

There are 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malheur County at this time. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management has a visual dashboard for the COVID-19 situation across the state HERE.

The Malheur County Health Department is working closely with the Oregon Health Authority, local emergency management, Malheur County Jail, Environmental Health, and medical providers to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find up to date numbers on cases of COVID-19 in Oregon by calling 211 or visiting healthoregon.org/coronavirus.

Updated Mitigation Measures Released

In response to Governor Brown and President Trump’s press conferences and updated guidance announced today, we have released new Malheur County Health Department Community Mitigation Recommendations. We hope this document is a helpful tool to everyone in Malheur County, our partners, and neighbors. Thank you to everyone who is working so hard to keep their families and those most vulnerable in our community safe.

MCHD COVID-19 Update

The Malheur County Health Department is working closely with state and community partners to prevent and prepare for the spread of Novel Coronavirus Updates (COVID-19).

For the Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 Updates, please visit: healthoregon.org/coronavirus. There are Frequently Asked Questions, information on cases, videos, and fact sheets in multiple languages.

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management has a visual dashboard for the COVID-19 situation across the state HERE.

Read the Oregon Department of Education COVID-19 Resources HERE, including the latest press release “Governor Kate Brown Announces Statewide School Closure for Students in Oregon from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31.” Read all of Governor Brown’s press releases HERE.

At this time, there are still no laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in Malheur County, although we are preparing for the likely possibility that the virus will spread. We can slow the spread by following social distancing measures and if everyone takes steps to prevent illness.

New COVID-19 Social Distancing Measures in Place

Today Governor Kate Brown ordered the implementation of community social distancing measures, recommending cancellation of events hosting more than 10 persons in high risk populations. High risk populations include older adults and those with underlying health conditions, as well as individuals without stable housing. Underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of serious COVID-19 for individuals of any age.  

The Governor has also ordered the implementation of community social distancing measures prohibiting large gatherings. This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. A mass gathering is a planned or spontaneous event with 250 or more people in attendance, such as concerts, festivals, conferences, worship services, and sporting events, and any similar events or activities.

An event is defined as any gathering in a space in which a distance of at least three feet between individuals cannot be maintained. This recommendation applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. This does not apply to school attendance, businesses, grocery and retail stores. Organizers will need to modify, postpone, or cancel events that meet the above criteria through at least April 8, 2020. Further guidance will be available before that date.

Older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease) are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. People who need non-emergency medical care should call their health care provider before showing up at a clinic.

Detailed guidance for Community and Faith-based Organizations, Employers, Schools, Healthcare Providers, Families and more are available under “COVID-19 Resources” on the OHA website: healthoregon.org/coronavirus.