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.