Outdoor mask requirement lifted

The Oregon Health Authority today announced the lifting of the mask requirement for outdoor gatherings, but said masks were still recommended for large outdoor gatherings where social distancing cannot be maintained. Masks are still required in indoor settings.

“COVID-19 remains a very unpredictable virus,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said. He pointed to the high number of people still hospitalized in Oregon, and increased cases in several US states currently to stress that this is not a time to let our guard down.

Oregon reached the sad milestone of 5,000 COVID-19-related deaths this week. “Each death represents a hole in someone’s life that will never be filled,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. This does not compare with flu, he said, “A bad flu season kills 600 Oregonians a year.” As the holidays approach, MCHD urges everyone to be considerate of the family members we love. Limit the size of gatherings, wear masks when indoors with unvaccinated people, and wash your hands frequently.

Boosters now widely available

COVID-19 booster shots are now available to everyone over 18 who had their second dose at least six months prior, or two months after a Johnson and Johnson vaccine, after an FDA panel, followed by a CDC panel and the Western States Scientific Safety Review have recommended the dose.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free, and the booster dose provides an extra layer of protection.

Booster doses are available every Wednesday in November and December (with the exceptions of the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) at the Malheur County Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario.

Booster doses help people maintain strong immunity to disease longer. The first vaccine series builds up the immune system to make the antibodies needed to fight the disease. Over time, the immune response weakens. A booster dose stimulates the initial response and tends to result in higher antibody levels that help people maintain their immunity longer.

While booster doses are available to everyone age 18 and older, they are strongly recommended for people older than 50, people age 18 and older who live in long-term care facilities and anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The more people that choose to get vaccinated, the safer our communities will be for all of us,” said Rachel Banks, Public Health Director, Oregon Health Authority. “This review and subsequent approval of booster doses helps us loosen COVID-19’s grip on our communities and it will ultimately safe more lives.”

Vaccine clinic on tap for Saturday, Nov. 20

Malheur County Health Department, in cooperation with the Malheur County Incident Command Team, will host a drive-through vaccine clinic for people age 5 and older Saturday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario, Oregon.

If you’re already vaccinated, but bring a person for their first COVID-19 vaccine, both of you will receive a $25 gift card.

All three COVID-19 vaccines will be available; first doses, second doses, third doses and boosters. To view the flyer, go here:

A second drive-through event will be held three weeks later, Dec. 11, at the same location, also from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There is no charge for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bring a friend to get vaccinated, get a gift card

Saturday, Nov. 20, if a vaccinated person brings an unvaccinated friend or family member to the MCHD vaccine clinic at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, both will receive a gift card after the vaccine is given. There is no limit to the number of people a vaccinated person can bring to the event.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the airport firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario. Booster doses, first, second and third doses, and doses for children age 5-11 will be available.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available to anyone ages 5 and older. If you’re unsure whether your child should receive a vaccine, talk to their pediatrician.

There is so much misinformation right now about COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC has put together some helpful information about how to find credible vaccine information. That can be found here.

The CDC also addresses some myths about the COVID-19 vaccines. For instance: “Are all events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) caused by vaccination?” “No.” The full fact sheet can be found here.

Boys get vaccinated in memory of grandmother

Garrett (6) and Trenton (9) Schulthies came to the Malheur County after-hours clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which will help protect them against serious illness or death if they contract the virus which causes COVID-19.

Their mom, Lori, received a booster dose at the same time. All three were also inoculated against the flu virus. Lori says the boys lost their grandmother to complications of COVID-19, while two other grandparents and an aunt were hospitalized.

“If we don’t get vaccinated, there’s a way higher chance we could die,” Trenton said, when asked why he chose to be vaccinated. Garrett decided to keep it real when asked the same question: “Mom forced me. I didn’t have a choice.”

Children age 5-11 are now eligible to be protected against the virus that causes COVID-19, after the FDA recently authorized use of a smaller dose for children. Wednesday was the first day the vaccine was available to children at the Malheur County Health Department, and eight children received their first dose that day.

Malheur County has extended its clinic hours on Wednesdays through the end of December, except for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The clinic, at 1108 SW 4th Ave. in Ontario, will be open to walk-in clients looking for vaccinations from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on those days. Everyone age 5 and up is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, and most adults who received their second dose more than six months ago are eligible for a booster dose.

The county is also hosting drive-through vaccine clinics on two upcoming Saturdays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Ontario Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., in Ontario.

No new restrictions in Malheur County

   

A recent article in the Argus Observer newspaper made a false claim that Gov. Kate Brown had imposed restrictions on Malheur County and four other counties in Oregon between Nov. 11 and Nov. 25.

This information came from a November, 2020 article, and is not relevant to our current situation in Malheur County.

The Holiday Bazaar and vaccination clinic at Four Rivers Cultural Center is still going to take place, and there are no restrictions on gatherings.

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Malheur County

Malheur County Health Department has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses for kids age 5 to 11, and is ready to begin vaccinating children against the virus.

There are multiple options for parents who plan to vaccinate their children; walk-in clinics every Wednesday in November and December (except the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Health Department office, 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario, or a drive-up clinic Saturday, Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., with a second-dose clinic scheduled three weeks later, on Dec. 11, at the same time and location.

Children and adults who come to the Health Department for the vaccine will also be able to receive a flu vaccine, and potentially catch up on other childhood or regular vaccines that are needed.

If the times listed above don’t work for your schedule, you can make an appointment by calling 541-889-7279, or check with your child’s pediatrician or retail pharmacy.

HealthyChildren.org has provided a checklist for parents planning to have their child vaccinated. It can be found here.

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Oregon Health Authority lifts recreational use advisory for Malheur Reservoir

OHA lifted the advisory based on sampling that confirmed levels of cyanotoxins in Malheur Reservoir to be below recreational guideline values for people, and because the summer recreational season has ended. Although the levels detected are below the recreational use values for people, they continue to be well above OHA’s educational guideline values for dogs. Owners and hunters should be aware of the potential exposure to their pets while at the reservoir, especially shallow, marshy areas where cyanobacteria blooms can form, or cyanobacteria can be present on green algae, growing from the sediment or on rocks.

Oregon Health Authority announcement can be found here.

Do you have questions about vaccinating your child against COVID-19?

If you have questions about the new pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5-11, you are not alone. Some of your questions may be answered by this Frequently Asked Questions document compiled by the Oregon Health Authority.

If your questions are about vaccinating a 12-17-year-old, there are some answers here.

Malheur County Health Department has extended clinic hours Wednesdays during November and December (excluding the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) to offer walk-in COVID-19 and flu vaccines. The clinic, at 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario, will be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on those days, and those who want them can receive a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. The county will also host two Saturday drive-through vaccine clinics at the Ontario Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 20 and Dec. 11. Gift cards will be made available to people who receive COVID-19 vaccines at these events.