At the Malheur County Health Department, we know we are asking a lot of everyone in order to protect our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to need your help now, before we experience a surge of positive cases, when your actions will make the greatest impact on how the virus spreads, our health care system’s ability to care for those critically ill, and the recovery of the many sectors impacted by the pandemic. Please follow and share the following recommendations. We will continue to work with our partners and adjust our strategies as needed.
Symptoms and Testing
- Testing capacity is slowly increasing, but still limited. If you have symptoms that are mild enough you would not typically seek medical treatment, stay home, rest, and monitor your symptoms. Even if you had contact with someone who is also sick or a has confirmed case of COVID-19, if you have mild symptoms, the best thing you can do is stay home, isolate, and recover.
- People who need non-emergency medical care should call their health care provider before going to a clinic. There are COVID-19 test kits in our community, but testing is only available to those who meet the criteria, which includes symptoms of a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a cough, or shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, loss of taste and smell, and severe fatigue. At this time, without a fever and respiratory symptoms, most people would not qualify for a test. If you need care, call your health care provider and discuss your concerns. They will advise you on how to be tested, if necessary.
- If you or someone near you needs emergency care, call 911. Emergency warning signs include: difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to rouse, or blueish lips or face. Please tell the 911 dispatch about any known exposure to someone with COVID-19, if you are waiting on test results, or travel to any high-affected areas.
- Google recently created COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to provide insight into movement trend changes from baseline, which is especially helpful to see how the Stay Home, Save Lives Order is being followed. From the April 1, 2020 updated reports:
- Oregon averaged a 51% reduction in retail/recreation, a 25% reduction in grocery/pharmacy, and a 38% reduction in workplace.
- Malheur County averages were much less with only 33% reduction in retail/recreation, 15% reduction in grocery/pharmacy, and a 23% reduction in workplace.
- We know the Stay Home, Save Lives Order has caused hardships to many individuals, businesses, and families. Most of the nation is under similar orders in response to this pandemic because it is what public health experts know is our best strategy to slow the spread of the virus. The Oregon order is like other states’ “Shelter in Place” orders that mandate mitigation measures like stopping mass gatherings, closure of educational institutions, isolation of infected persons, and physical distancing of at least six-feet between people outside of your home.
- Even if every American follows similar mitigation measures across the U.S., we anticipate a devastating 100,000-250,000 deaths. The number of people in our local community who will be infected and the number of people who will die is largely dependent on how well each of us who live, work, and shop in Malheur County and surrounding areas follow the social distancing measures. Our top strategies go beyond the mandates with public health recommendations for every individual and family:
- Know how COVID-19 spreads. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus because the virus mainly spreads from person to person. Some people may spread the virus without showing symptoms, so everyone should act as if they are possibly infected.
- Limit close contact, indoors and outdoors, to family members only. That means no dinner parties, no play dates, no birthday parties with a few friends. Find ways to connect by phone, video, or mail. Write letters. Connect and still have fun, just not in person.
- Wash your hands often. If you do have to leave home, take hand sanitizer with you and clean your hands before and after you are in a public place. Avoid touching your face.
- Avoid close contact at all times by maintaining a physical distance of six-feet between you and other people outside of your home. All employees and customers must also follow the six-foot rule in businesses that are still open. Health care providers, law enforcement, and other essential service providers have additional measures to take to ensure safety when they can not keep physical distance.
- Some of the greatest concerns we’ve heard are from reports of close contact in grocery stores, cannabis dispensaries, dollar stores, convenience stores, and construction sites. All employers in Oregon are required by the Oregon Safe Employment Act (OSEA) to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Visit osha.oregon.gov for more information.
- Stay home except for essential business, such as going to the pharmacy or getting groceries. Our additional recommendations for how to do this safely are:
- Keep a 30-day supply of prescriptions. Ask if your pharmacy can mail medication or pick up through a drive-through.
- Don’t go to the grocery store more than once a week. Call the store ahead of time to ask about special shopping hours or curb-side pick-up options. Shop for high-risk people so they don’t need to leave home. Coordinate as a family to have one person do all the shopping. Wash reusable bags every trip.
- If possible, do not to take other people with you and arrange for child care, if needed.
- When you return home from being in public, wash your hands and disinfect your car, keys, credit cards, phone, doorknobs, counter tops and other surfaces that may have been contaminated. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home daily, even when you stay home.
- Create a Family COVID-19 Plan. Every family should prepare for the outbreak with a detailed plan communicated to everyone included. Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications. Talk with your neighbors, create an emergency contact list, and identify local aid organizations.
If You Are Sick
- Put your Family COVID-19 Plan into action. Identify a “sick room” to isolate in at home.
- Stay home completely, except if you need medical care.
- Stay home from work, even if you are part of an essential business. Notify your workplace.
- Isolate as much as possible from the people you live with. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible. Avoid sharing personal items. Clean sick room and bathroom daily.
- Notify those you’ve had close contact with that they should monitor symptoms (including taking their temperature) for the next 14 days and isolate if symptoms develop.
- Continue practicing everyday prevention actions. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol.
- Stay in touch with others by phone or email. Let others know how you are doing and ask for help if needed.
- Stay home for a full 72 hours after symptoms resolve. Some patients start to feel better and then suddenly take a turn for the worse, five to seven days into the illness. Be vigilant monitoring symptoms and don’t resume activity until symptoms have been gone for three full days or that it’s been a full seven days since the onset of symptoms, whichever is longer.
- Self-care could include taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), using cold compresses, drinking warm beverages, staying hydrated, eat healthy foods, and resting as much as possible.
- You should wear a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory diseases and are outside of your sick room at home. If you have to go to your health care provider, wear a mask.
- New guidance from the CDC states, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity… even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
- We do not recommend that people use surgical masks that are in short supply and needed for the health care system. It is recommended to wear a cloth face covering, such as a bandana or homemade mask if you leave your home and are around other people. Do not touch the mask when it is on your face and wash it after every single use.
- If you have a supply of N95 respirators (the specialty mask that protects health care workers from exposure when caring for COVID-19 patients) or other personal protective equipment (PPE), please donate it to essential health care workers on the front lines who critically need it. Call Rich Harriman, Malheur County Emergency Manager, at 541-473-5120 to donate PPE.
What Else You Can Do
- Stay healthy. Eat a good diet. Exercise. Go outside for a run or walk, as long as you maintain at least six feet distance from others. Get plenty of rest. Stay up to date on vaccines.
- Quit smoking. Call the Oregon Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free counseling.
- Reach out to local service organizations and charities and donate money or volunteer to support their work from home. Several local projects are listed at justserve.org.
- Donate to food pantries and assistance sites. Visit oregonfoodfinder.com to search locally.
- Give blood through the American Red Cross. Several blood drives are planned in Ontario soon. Sign up HERE.
- Take care of your mental health and help your family cope. Visit the CDC for tips and links to treatment providers.
- Be ready to help one another. A strong sense of community will carry us through this difficult time.
- Call the Health Department at 541-889-7279 if you have additional questions. 2-1-1 is also an excellent resource for information on COVID-19 and local resources. Call 211 or visit 211info.org.