Governor Kate Brown Announces Updates to the County Watch List

News release September 18, 2020, edited to focus on Malheur County.

Governor Kate Brown announced last Friday that Umatilla and Morrow Counties have succeeded in reducing the spread of COVID-19 sufficiently enough to be removed from the County Watch List.

“I want to commend county officials and community members in Umatilla and Morrow Counties for stepping up and working together to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “The progress they have made in curbing community transmission shows that we can reduce the spread of this disease if we all do our part by wearing face coverings, watching our physical distance, washing our hands, staying home when sick, and avoiding large gatherings.”

County Watch List

Counties are placed on the Watch List when COVID-19 is spreading quickly and public health officials cannot trace that spread to specific sources—creating a potentially dangerous dynamic. Specific markers of this rapid community spread include when there is a sporadic case rate of 50 or more per 100,000 people in the last two weeks and the county has had more than five sporadic cases in the last two weeks (sporadic cases are those that cannot be traced to a source; they indicate community spread). Counties remain on the Watch List for a minimum of three weeks and until their sporadic case rates drop below these thresholds.

The County Watch List allows the state to prioritize resources and assistance to counties that are seeing the broadest spread of COVID-19. When a county is placed on the Watch List, the Oregon Health Authority increases monitoring and communication, and deploys additional technical assistance and resources, such as epidemiological support, case investigation, and contact tracing help.

No counties have been added to the Watch List this week.

Malheur County

Malheur County remains on the County Watch List. While county officials and community members have been working hard to stem the spread of COVID-19, Malheur County faces particular challenges, including the county’s proximity to Idaho and the amount of travel back and forth across the state border. Idaho continues to have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the country, and the communities across the border from Malheur County are among the hardest hit by the virus. Bringing infection rates down in Malheur County will require state and local officials across the border to do their part as well.

The Oregon Health Authority continues to monitor the COVID-19 spread in Malheur County and remains in close communication with county officials. OHA will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, and stands ready to work with counties should any concerns arise. As noted in this week’s Weekly Report from OHA, new cases of COVID-19 declined in the last week, as did the state’s positivity rate––however the number of Oregonians tested also declined due to disruptions and delays caused by active wildfires.

Governor Brown added, “COVID-19 is still very much with us, and, together, all of us play a part in helping keep our friends, families, and neighbors safe and healthy. With cold and flu season approaching, it’s also a great time to get your flu shot, to help make sure our frontline health care workers have the bed capacity and resources they need to continue treating COVID-19 patients.”

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