The first case of the Novel 2019 Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Oregon was reported on February 28, 2020. The first case in Malheur County was reported on March 30th. The Stay Home, Save Lives order reduced the outbreak in the state, preventing the rate of transmission through social distancing and other measures. Unfortunately, Malheur County was not spared cases, but rather hit later. Malheur County Health Department officials are now anticipating a surge due to a drastic increase in cases in the last week. There were two cases per week for the first two weeks reported in Malheur (March 29-April 11). We hoped we had evaded a surge with only one case per week over the next two weeks (April 12-25) while rates were increasing in more urban areas. But now within the last week alone, Malheur has seven new COVID-19 cases, demonstrated in the graph above.
Testing for COVID-19 has increased over the last six weeks and more people are able to access testing through multiple local health care providers and the recent Drive-Up Testing Site organized by the Malheur COVID-19 Taskforce. The results are not yet in for the 39 people who were tested at the Drive-Up Site. But even while taking into consideration the increased number of tests, the rate of positive tests is also increasing, demonstrated in the graph below. That means that the average number of positives per the number of tests completed has increased at the same time that the testing criteria has lowered to allow more people to be tested, which would generally mean that the rate of positive would go down, other factors being even.
Following the guidance of the CDC, the White House, Health Care experts, and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Malheur County cannot safely reopen and lift the restrictions that have caused much sacrifice and hardship across our community with a significant increase in cases as we see now. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has repeatedly said, “You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.” What dictates much of how quickly the virus spreads is our behavior, especially of those who are younger and well. If people ignore the Stay Home order, don’t wear cloth face coverings in public, gather in groups publicly or privately, don’t maintain six feet distance from others, don’t only leave home for essentials in a planned way, consolidating trips to once a week or two, more people will get sick at an increased rate. If people don’t simply take this seriously to reduce the likelihood that they could pass the virus even without symptoms, we will be unable to reopen for a longer amount of time. Malheur County has a plan to reopen businesses and parts of public life that have been restricted, but can not begin that plan without meeting the gating criteria, which includes a downward trajectory of cases over 14 days. Please help our county get to Phase One of the Reopening Plan by staying home except for essential needs. We can only flatten the curve of the upward trend in new cases by being more vigilant in prevention measures.
Southwest District Health reported yesterday that Payette County, Idaho, which shares a border with Malheur County, has a total of 14 positive COVID-19 cases and one death. Canyon County, Idaho which shares a border with both Malheur and Payette counties, has 244 cases and seven deaths.
Additionally, the Malheur County Health Department is now reporting recovered cases for those people who tested positive and are no longer ill or isolated. As of today, of the 13 total cases, three have recovered. Find daily updates at https://malheurhealth.org/covid-19-cases/.
For more information:
- For general information, call 211
- OHA: www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus
- CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- WHO: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/novel-coronavirus
- MCHD: https://malheurhealth.org
- MCHD Nurse Line: 541-889-7279