Revised Rural Health Metrics Highlight Planned Updates to Ready Schools, Safe Learners

Oregon Department of Education August 11, 2020 News Release:

The planned updates to 2020-21 school year guidance include more flexibility for rural and remote schools to offer in-person instruction, protocols for COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, supports for special populations, athletics, and more.

As part of its planned guidance review process, the Oregon Department of Education released updates today to Ready Schools, Safe Learners, the 2020-21 school year guidance.

Ready Schools, Safe Learners, developed under the direction of Governor Brown and in collaboration with Oregon Health Authority, provides a framework for schools for the 2020-21 school year that prioritizes the health and safety of all students and staff and the families they return to each day.

Flexibility For Rural And Remote Schools

The revised guidance gives rural and remote schools more flexibility to offer in-person instruction. The new metrics require close partnership between school districts and local public health authorities to oversee a return to in-person instruction in small communities not impacted by COVID-19. The metrics also clarify limited in-person opportunities in schools required to operate through Comprehensive Distance Learning. Our priority is to return to in-person instruction as soon as it can be accomplished with stability and safety.

Other updates to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance include:

  • A new toolkit for planning for COVID-19 outbreak scenarios in schools. This toolkit is titled Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools.
  • Guidance to ensure equity and access for students served by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This guidance is titled Ensuring Equity & Access: Aligning Federal and State Requirements.
  • New additions to the Comprehensive Distance Learning guidance, including guidance for limited in-person instruction and supports, new requirements for meeting the needs of students without access to online instruction, and more. 
  • Many updates to safety protocols for On-Site and Hybrid instructional models, including clarification that face coverings are preferred over face shields, but face shields remain acceptable in some settings. (Page 33)
  • Recognizing the positive mental, physical, and emotional health benefits school sports provide for student athletes, ODE and OHA have revised athletic health and safety guidance to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while allowing for the conduct of low, medium, and non-contact sports, in line with the school sports calendar determined by the Oregon School Activities Association. At this time, full-contact sports such as wrestling, football, basketball, hockey, and cheerleading continue to be prohibited under ODE and OHA guidance
  • Updates on meal service (Page 44), transportation screening (Page 45), safety drills (Page 48) and more. 

The Comprehensive Distance Learning guidance, Ensuring Equity & Access: Aligning Federal and State Requirements guidance, and Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools toolkit are all part of Ready Schools, Safe Learners. These documents and the contents, tools, and links within them, are all linked from Ready Schools, Safe Learners, work in concert with each other and are considered part of the whole package of supports and guidance for school districts.

Decrease in COVID-19 hospitalization reporting

Sharing this important message from the Oregon Health Alert Network to healthcare facilities and providers:

In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, it is extremely important that health care facilities and health care providers comply with their COVID-19 reporting requirements. The Oregon Health Authority has observed a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalization reporting. This is a concerning trend, as we cannot take appropriate action to respond to this epidemic without your assistance and cooperation. Please review the COVID-19 reporting requirements below. Thank you, in advance, for your collaboration.

Health care facilities and health care providers are required, by law, to report the following within 24 hours (including weekends and holidays):

  • All human cases of COVID-19 to the local public health administrator. When local public health administrators cannot be reached within the specified time limit, reports shall be made directly to the Oregon Health Authority.
  • All human cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
  • Hospitalization of any individual with COVID-19, on or after March 9, 2020, whether or not the case was previously reported.
  • Deaths of any individual due to COVID-19, on or after March 9, 2020, whether or not the case was previously reported.

In addition, licensed laboratories are required to report:

  • All test results indicative of and specific for COVID-19 within 24 hours (including weekends and holidays).
  • All negative test results for COVID-19 within one local public health authority working day.

Health care providers must report this information in one of two ways, in order of preference:

WIC Farmers Market

Don’t miss the WIC Farmers Market August 11-12 outside the Health Department 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario.

Get your WIC Farm Direct checks! If you are current on WIC, you may be eligible to receive $28 worth of WIC Farm Direct checks to use with local farmers at the Farmers Market or their farm stands.

Interested in WIC?

  • Do you live in Oregon?
  • Are you pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding woman or a child under 5 years old?
  • Are you receiving TANF, SNAP or the Oregon Health Plan or meet WIC income guidelines? Call Malheur County WIC at (541)889-7279 to make an appointment!

COVID-19 Trends

There were 106 new COVID-19 cases reported in Malheur County in the last week. The rate of new cases has been increasing again over the past couple weeks. The below graph shows the rate of new cases over 19 weeks, since our first lab-confirmed positive case was reported the week of March 29th. These are only cases showing current, active infections.

As increasing numbers of Oregonians, including those in Malheur, have tested positive for COVID-19, many have wondered if that’s simply due to more testing. Although testing has increased, the positive test rate, which shows the prevalence of the virus, has increased. By offering tests to more and more people at a lower threshold, meaning people with fewer or no symptoms are included in testing, the positive test rate should go down as the number of tests increases. Last week, 415 COVID-19 tests were reported in Malheur County and the overall positive test rate went up to 18.5%. The takeaway is that COVID-19 is spreading more rampantly and we are not doing enough testing to keep up with the increasing infections. Of all tests reported in Oregon through August 1, 2020, the statewide average is a 4.4% positive rate.

We are hopeful that by being transparent with as much data as possible, while protecting private health information, the public will better understand the increasing risk of COVID-19 transmission in Malheur County. Malheur County Health Department urges everyone to follow the preventive measures that will prevent outbreaks and protect those who are most vulnerable from severe illness or death.

COVID-19 Situation Update

COVID-19 cases are increasing in Malheur County. Last week we saw an uptrend in cases of 23% from the week before and 66% of cases could not be traced to a known source, meaning we have significant community spread among people who have not been identified as positive. As of today, there are 768 cases, with only 409 of those considered recovered. To date, 18.3% of all COVID-19 tests reported have been positive, far over the 5% goal. Two people have died this week, one male in his 80s at home and one male in his 40s at a Boise area hospital, bringing the death total associated with COVID-19 to 14. Our thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one and those who are caring for someone who is sick. We have many people under quarantine at this time because of close contact with a known case and appreciate the sacrifices they make to stay home and prevent the spread of this virus to more people.

Check out this five-video series on Quarantine 101. MCHD Nursing Supervisor, Rebecca Stricker is interviewed by the Malheur Enterprise. The videos are also available with Spanish subtitles here.   

We are hiring! Visit the Malheur County employment website for links to applications for an Office Assistant and a Registered Nurse.

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Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Weekly Update

  • Full report available at
  • Highlights
    • Reported signs and symptoms for all confirmed cases statewide
      • Cough 51.1%
      • Headache 47.4%
      • Muscle aches 44.3%
      • Loss of smell 35.2%
    • Malheur County Outbreaks (reporting cases of Malheur County Residents only)
      • Brookdale Assisted Living: 37 cases, 5 deaths
      • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 17 cases, 2 deaths
      • Snake River Correctional Institution: 132 cases
      • The Kraft Heinz Company: 11 cases
      • Walmart: 7 cases
      • Oregon Child Development: 6 cases
    • Cases by ZIP code (rate is cases per 10,000)
      • 97913: Nyssa: 94 cases, rate 170.1
      • 97914: Ontario: 428 cases, rate 222.9
      • 97918: Vale: 40 cases, rate 88.2

Drive Up Test Sites

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce is offering COVID-19 testing to individuals who live or work in Malheur County, have symptoms, or are part of groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including people with close contact with a case, people of color, people with a disability, people who speak English as a second language, and first responders.

The next drive up testing sites are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Nyssa: Wednesday, August 12th
    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 1309 Park Ave, Nyssa
  • Vale: Wednesday, August 19th
    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 135 Yakima St S, Vale

School Health and Safety Metrics

Governor Brown and leaders from OHA and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced new guidance about schools and how they might operate this fall. There is no simple, statewide answer for every school in Oregon. It is important to get students back to class, but how we do that depends on a number of important factors. The community metrics for reopening. Oregon public health officials have developed evidence-based metrics to help school boards and school districts make decisions about how they can safely reopen schools. Visit ODE’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners web page for more information. At this time, no K-12 school in Malheur County qualifies to open for in person instruction. We expect new guidance to be released next Tuesday, August 11th.

Masks and Face Coverings

In Oregon, face coverings are required statewide, for all people who are five (5) and over in indoor spaces open to the public, and outdoors when at least six (6) feet of distance cannot be maintained between others outside of an individual’s household. Face coverings are also now required when exercising indoors, plus outdoors when a physical distance of at least six (6) feet of distance cannot be maintained. OHA has published a new webpage on face coverings and masks.

Some people are unable to wear face coverings for medical reasons. When a person with a disability is unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons, they should be offered a reasonable accommodation.  Medical exemptions, though, are not permitted. Reasonable accommodation examples may include, a grocery store may offer personal shopping for someone who cannot wear a face mask, or a medical appointment may be conducted over the telephone.

August COVID-19 Drive-Up Testing Sites

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce is offering free COVID-19 testing to individuals who meet specific criteria at three testing sites in August in Ontario, Nyssa, and Vale. The events will conclude twelve testing sites coordinated by the Taskforce. Results from testing were increasingly delayed in June and July and the Taskforce will now send specimens to the Oregon State Public Health Lab and expect a turnaround of five to seven days.

Testing Site Opportunities

  • Ontario: Wednesday, August 5th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • Malheur County Fairgrounds 795 NW 9th St, Ontario
  • Nyssa: Wednesday, August 12th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • LDS Church 1309 Park Ave, Nyssa
  • Vale: Wednesday, August 19th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • LDS Church 135 Yakima St. S., Vale


Testing at the Malheur Drive-Up Testing Sites is only for individuals who live or work in Malheur County. A person qualifies for testing if they have symptoms or if they identify as part of a group disproportionately affected by COVID-19.


  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Without symptoms, but part of following groups:

  • Close contacts of a person with COVID-19
  • People exposed to COVID-19 in congregate setting
  • Migrant/seasonal agricultural workers upon arrival in Oregon
  • People who identify as Black, African-American, Latino, Latina, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander
  • People who identify as having a disability
  • People whose first language is not English
  • First Responders

This testing option is not meant to replace or eliminate other testing offered by local healthcare providers. The goal is to supplement those options in order to ease some of the pressure on the existing system and make the process more accessible to the public. People still should contact their medical provider for guidance and assessment if they have symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. For medical emergencies, they should call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that you may have COVID-19.


Upon arrival at the testing site, individuals will be required to remain in their vehicles at all times. Each driver should drive cautiously and follow traffic directions. You will be required to complete a screening form, which includes where you live and work, high risk factors, and a release of liability. All forms and service available in English and Spanish. A walk-up option will be available and marked for individuals without transportation.

Personnel in full medical protective gear will use a swab to obtain the necessary sample from the individual’s nose. If you do not meet the testing criteria, you will be diverted back to your residence to monitor symptoms and contact your local healthcare provider.

Additional information on COVID-19 and the testing sites is available by calling the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279.


We’ve been missing a lot lately: hugs, smiles, lip reading. So let’s not miss this: a big part of what makes us human is our willingness to give up some of our own comfort to help out a neighbor. Malheur County has over 30,000 reasons to mask up, but the only one you’ll need, is probably right next to you. Mask up Malheur County.

“Keep Malheur County Open” Campaign Launches

Download this graphic and share on social media!

Today the Malheur County Court, Malheur County Health Department, and Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce announce the “Keep Malheur County Open” campaign.

Please download, print, post, and share the following posters to support businesses and the health of our community:

Malheur County has one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases in the state, with 136 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last ten days, bringing the total case count to 538. Over 435 of those people are potentially still infectious. There have been 415 positive cases reported in Malheur County since July 1st. The percentage of positive tests has also significantly increased from 4.6% June 22nd to 16.7% July 22nd, the highest it has ever been. In response to these alarming numbers, the Office of the Governor Kate Brown placed Malheur County on a Watch List. Malheur County faces increased restrictions if the metrics do not improve.

All of us play an important part as Malheur County remains open. Here is what all members of the community must do to keep our businesses open as we move forward:

  • Physical Distance: Be at least 6 feet from people you don’t live with. Stay home if you are sick. Stay close to home and avoid trips outside your community.
  • Protect Others: Cover your cough and sneeze with elbow or tissue. Avoid touching your face. Use face coverings in public.
  • Keep Clean: Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Frequently clean your work and living space, especially high touch places like doors and handles.

It is absolutely critical that everyone does their part to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for themselves and those who are most vulnerable in our County. It will take several solutions from all sectors of our community to flatten the curve of new infections and save lives. Together, We Can Keep Malheur County Open.

Download this graphic to use on as the banner on your Facebook page!

Governor Kate Brown Announces New Requirements for Face Coverings and Businesses to Stop Spread of COVID-19

Effective July 24, children 5 and up to wear face coverings.

In light of the continued spread of COVID-19 in Oregon––including a troubling rise in cases of community spread that cannot be traced and contained––Governor Kate Brown today announced new statewide health and safety measures, including new requirements for face coverings and businesses, effective Friday, July 24. Unless the spread of COVID-19 begins to slow, the Governor made clear that additional restrictions would be necessary.

“Oregon, we ventured out onto the ice together and that ice has begun to crack. Before we fall through the ice, we need to take steps to protect ourselves and our community,” said Governor Kate Brown. “So it’s time for further actions to slow the spread of this disease. Keep in mind, this is not an on or off switch. This disease is something that, for the time being, we must live with. However, when we see numbers rise, we must respond in turn. We must dim the lights. We must scale back, limit our interactions, take more precautions.”

Beginning July 24, the following new requirements will apply:

Face Coverings
• Face coverings will be required for all Oregonians ages five and up in indoor public spaces and outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
• Face coverings will be required even in cases of physical exertion indoors, and outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.

• The maximum indoor capacity limit is capped at 100 for all venues in Phase II counties and for restaurants and bars in Phase I or II counties.
• Restaurants and bars will be required to stop serving customers at 10:00 P.M statewide.

A recording of the Governor’s press conference from Wednesday, July 22, is available here.

A full transcript of the Governor’s remarks from Wednesday, July 22, is available here.

Updated guidance will be posted to

Keep Outdoor Gatherings Safe

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'Face coverings now required in outdoor public places where you cannot physically distance STATEWIDE RULE Effective July 15'

MCHD case investigators are still tracing multiple COVID-19 cases to social gatherings, where people have not followed the guidance to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Please share the information below and keep your social activities as safe as possible.

  • Statewide, everyone in Oregon needs to follow these rules:
    • No group of 10 or more individuals are to socially gather indoors
    • Groups of less than 10 individuals gathering indoors are to wear face coverings, observe social distancing guidelines and keep six feet between individuals.
    • Groups of less than 25 individuals gathering outdoors are to wear face coverings, observe social distancing guidelines and keep six feet between individuals.
  • Countywide, everyone needs to follow the additional guidance from the current Malheur County resolution:
    • No group of 25 or more individuals are to gather outdoors.

The resolution recommends measures for local social gatherings when individuals are from different households. Even if the people you are gathering with are extended family, coworkers, neighbors, or close friends, you should ensure the group is kept to 10 or less indoors, 25 or less outdoors, and that everyone over age 12 wears a face covering if 6 foot physical distance is not maintained at all times.

It is very important that we slow the spread of COVID-19 to save lives, reduce outbreaks, keep businesses open, and get kids back to school in person. None of this could happen if our rates of COVID-19 keep increasing.

Malheur County is now ranked #2 in the state for the rate of cases.