Oregon moving closer to vaccination goal

Risk levels, capacity limits and most mask requirements will be lifted once 70% is reached

Governor Kate Brown on Friday announced the steps Oregon will take to lift COVID-19 restrictions when the statewide vaccination goal of 70% of adults has been reached. A Governor’s Office press release provides the details.

As of today, 66.8% of Oregonians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines. For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point — and you are protected from this virus,” Gov. Brown said. “However, there are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel and stay safe. People battling cancer and immunocompromised Oregonians, to name a couple. There are also many Oregon kids who are not yet eligible for a vaccine. So, it will remain incredibly important for Oregonians to continue making smart choices. And, to respect the choices of others. Let’s respect one another as we prepare to make this transition.”

In Malheur County, 34.8% of the eligible population age 16 and older have been vaccinated. The goal for individual counties is 65%. For more information on goals and vaccine rates, visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Governor’s Goal dashboard here.

COVID-19 Vaccines, Pregnancy, and Your Fertility

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19. If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems for men or women. If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The risk of severe disease or even death from COVID-19 is higher during pregnancy. Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk for preterm birth and might be at increased risk for other poor outcomes related to pregnancy compared to pregnant people without COVID-19. Other poor pregnancy outcomes, such as pregnancy loss, have been reported. Learn more about the risks associated with COVID-19 and pregnancy here.

A study published recently in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows the vaccines are not only safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women, they may also offer some protection for their babies. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a leading professional membership organization for obstetrician-gynecologists, recommends that pregnant women have access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 for more information and visit our COVID-19 page for a list of local vaccine providers.

The COVID-19 vaccines protect you against severe disease. Over 590,000 Americans have died with COVID-19. Cases are still high in Malheur County and we don’t want one more person to become sick from the infection. Please don’t let yourself be scared into not protecting yourself and your family. COVID-19 is dangerous, and the benefits of vaccines are proven. If you have questions about any vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider, your child’s pediatrician, or call us at 541-889-7279 and ask to talk with a public health nurse.

No change to county risk level this week

Malheur County is more than halfway to 65% vaccination goal

Malheur County will remain at the High Risk level when updates are made to the state’s public health framework this Friday. During the two-week period from May 9-22, Malheur County reported 38 new cases of COVID-19, a marked decrease from the two periods prior. The case rate, or number of cases per 100,000 people, was 118.4 and test positivity rate was 7.8%. This week’s Risk Levels Summary Table is available here.

“The science is clear: vaccines are very effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19, and they are the key to returning to normal life and lifting health and safety restrictions statewide,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a news release on Tuesday. “This disease remains dangerous for those in communities with high rates of unvaccinated individuals. That’s why I’m encouraging all Oregonians to roll up your sleeves, take your shot, and get a chance to change your life. It’s never been easier to get vaccinated, and you may just end up a winner through the Take Your Shot, Oregon campaign.”

Last week, Gov. Brown unveiled the campaign aimed at incentivizing Oregonians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 through monetary prizes. A total of $1.86 million will be given away next month, and Oregonians age 12 and older who receive a dose of any of the three available vaccines by June 27 will be eligible to win.

“In this final push to reach every Oregonian with a vaccine and to meet our goal of at least 70% of adults vaccinated so that we can fully reopen our economy, we will need to pull on every lever we have. So, if you’ve been waiting to get a vaccine or you just haven’t gotten around to it yet, we’re going to give you an extra incentive. How about a chance to win a million dollars? Take Your Shot Oregon, roll up your sleeves, and get a chance to change your life,” Gov. Brown said during a press conference on May 21.

Statewide, 64.3% of adults had received a dose of vaccine as of May 25. Gov. Brown set the 70% goal earlier this month, saying that most restrictions would be lifted when it is reached. An additional goal of vaccinating 65% of people age 16 and older was set for each of the state’s 36 counties, enabling those that meet it to move into the Lower Risk level sooner than the rest of the state.

Malheur County is more than halfway to that goal, with 33.6% of the 16+ population vaccinated with at least one dose. The counties of Benton, Hood River, Multnomah, Washington and Lincoln have reached the 65% goal.

“Lincoln County was just over 100 vaccines away from their goal last Friday morning, and by noon they had reached it. They are going into the upcoming holiday weekend with minimal restrictions on their economy and confidence that the majority of their population is protected from the virus. We can achieve the same in Malheur County,” said Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department. “Anyone who is unable to get to a vaccine can call the Health Department to request a home visit. We also offer worksite vaccination, and we have staff who are fluent in both English and Spanish. We are working with our community partners to ensure that vaccines are accessible to everyone age 12 and up, no matter where you are in Malheur County or what your individual needs might be.”

At last count, 8,539 of the 16,534 people who make up 65% of the 16+ population in Malheur County have received a dose of vaccine, leaving 7,995 to reach the goal. This information is available on Oregon Health Authority’s data dashboard, COVID-19 Vaccination Governor’s Goal.

For more information, or to inquire about a home or worksite vaccine, call 541-889-7279.

Local gift cards for the first 250 vaccine recipients this Thursday

The Malheur County Health Department is offering $20 gifts cards to the first 250 COVID-19 vaccine recipients at this week’s vaccine event at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. Recipients will be able to choose between Albertsons, Red Apple, or True Value gift cards.

The event is on Thursday, May 27, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is open to anyone age 18 and older. First-dose vaccine recipients can choose between Moderna or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson. A second dose of Moderna will be available to those who received their first dose on or before May 3.

No appointment is needed for this walk-in event. The vaccine is free and there’s no insurance or documentation required.

For more information, visit our events calendar or give us a call at 541-889-7279.

Oregon adjusts guidance for masks, physical distancing

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) today released updated guidance about mask and physical distancing requirements for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the updated guidance, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors, in most public settings where vaccination status is checked. In public settings where vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required. Finally, businesses and venue operators remain free to establish their own, more restrictive policies regarding mask usage.

The full OHA bulletin is available here

Teen birth rate on a steady decline in Malheur County

Despite being ranked among the least healthy counties in Oregon, Malheur County’s scores on the annual County Health Rankings report released earlier this year are not all bad. In fact, when it comes to violent crime rates and drunk-driving deaths, Malheur County is doing better than the state average. It has also shown marked improvement over previous years in teen births and the percentage of children living in poverty.

The teen birth rate has made a steady decline in Malheur County over previous years, from 65 out of every 1,000 females age 15-19 in the 2016 report to 37/1,000 in the 2021 report. Malheur County still leads the state in teen births – the average is 17 – but by progressively narrower margins. The percentage of children living in poverty in Malheur County has also steadily declined since the 2016 report, from 38% to 25%. The state average is 14%.

“Our teen birth rate, while still significantly higher than the state average, has decreased for the fifth year in a row and that’s worth celebrating,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “Teen births are often tied to high school incompletion rates and poverty. Waiting to get pregnant can have lifelong impacts on entire families. We encourage any teen who has questions or concerns about pregnancy to call our office and take advantage of the services that are available to them.”

Among the many public health services offered by the Health Department are family planning and birth control, pregnancy testing and counseling, maternal and child health services, immunizations, and WIC. All services are confidential and available to anyone in the community, regardless of ability to pay.

Overall this year, Malheur County is ranked 28th for health outcomes of 34 participating Oregon counties. Health outcomes include length of life and quality of life. Malheur County is ranked 34th of 34 participating counties for health factors, which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Only two Oregon counties, Gilliam and Wheeler, were not included in the county health rankings due to insufficient data.

The report also highlights areas where Malheur County’s health and health habits have declined: Diabetes prevalence has increased, as have adult obesity and smoking. Adult obesity rose from 36% in the 2020 report to 40% in the 2021 report. The state average is 29%. Adult smoking rose from 17% in the 2020 report to 22% in the 2021 report. The state average is 16%. Physical inactivity and excessive drinking are also up slightly. 

There are additional ways public health can address these areas of concern, Poe said.

“WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant women and children up to the age of 5. Our WIC staff and dietitian can help families stay healthy while cutting costs in their food budget. Our Tobacco Prevention and Education Program has many resources from smokefreeoregon.com to support individuals, retailers, and cities. The PRIME program connects Certified Recovery Mentors with people who use drugs and provides compassionate, trauma-informed care. There is something the Malheur County Health Department does for every person who lives in our county, regardless of age, income, or legal status. We want our work to improve lives and make a difference in health outcomes. I encourage any Malheur County resident to call us to learn how we can help.”

The annual rankings report is published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The rankings provide a snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play. This year’s rankings include data through 2019 and are not yet reflective of the impact that COVID-19 has had on counties; however, the pandemic has exacerbated the differences in health and opportunity by place. In its 2021 Message to the Field, the report states, “While all are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest opportunities are likely to exit it with an even greater burden. This crisis has only deepened the avoidable and unfair gaps that Black, Latino, Indigenous, and some Asian-American communities faced pre-COVID-19 in jobs with fair pay, housing, education, and more.”

Vaccination can begin for 12- to 15-year-olds in Oregon

The Oregon Health Authority has informed healthcare providers that COVID-19 vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds can begin today. The announcement followed unanimous confirmation on Wednesday by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for that age group. A Governor’s Office news release is available here.

The OHA has been working with healthcare providers, pharmacies, community-based organizations and school districts to make the Pfizer vaccine readily available for eligible youth throughout the state. Parental consent is required to vaccinate individuals ages 12-14. While youth age 15 and older may consent to medical care, including vaccinations, some providers may still require consent.

In Malheur County, Snake River Pediatrics is currently scheduling Pfizer vaccine appointments for youth ages 12 and older. Call 541-216-6556 for an appointment.

Valley Family Health Care is offering a Pfizer vaccine clinic for Oregon and Idaho residents age 12+ on Friday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. No appointment is needed, and recipients may choose walk-in or drive-up vaccination. The clinic will be held at the Highway Worship Center, 100 S. Whitley Dr., in Fruitland, Idaho.

Governor announces vaccination goals for reopening local economies

Governor Kate Brown today announced new metrics for reopening the economy, saying that when 70% of Oregonians 16 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, most risk-level restrictions would be lifted. She said she felt confident that the goal would be reached by the end of June. A Governor’s Office news release is available here.

Additionally, beginning May 21, counties that reach 65% vaccination of residents 16 and older will have the option to move to Lower Risk by submitting a plan to close equity gaps in vaccination. Two counties have already reached 65%, four are above 60%, and five are above 55%. In Malheur County, current data shows that just over 31% of the eligible population has been vaccinated. That number does not include the estimated 1,800 Malheur County residents who received a vaccine in Idaho but the additional doses, once factored in, still aren’t enough to hit the target.

“Best case is that 39% of our eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “That means we still have thousands of people who need to be vaccinated.”

The Governor’s announcement comes a day after the Oregon Health Authority posted the latest Risk Level Metrics report showing Malheur County’s two-week case count at 64, up from 37 the week prior. School outbreaks make up the majority of the cases, but there continues to be sporadic infection throughout the community as well. COVID-19-related deaths are also rising locally. Four people have died since mid-April: a female in her 50s, a female in her 80s, a male in his 60s, and a male in his 80s.

Gov. Brown also announced new county risk levels today. Malheur County will remain at High Risk. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.

Counties have new capacity limits for indoor recreation, entertainment

Under the direction of Gov. Kate Brown, capacity limits in counties that are at Moderate and High Risk are now updated for indoor recreation and entertainment. As of May 5, indoor entertainment establishments and indoor recreation and fitness establishments in all Oregon counties may allow the following:

  • Moderate Risk: Maximum 20% occupancy or 100 people total, whichever is larger
  • High Risk: Maximum 10% occupancy or 50 people total, whichever is larger

Lower and Extreme Risk capacity limits for these sectors remain the same.

Malheur County moved to High Risk today. To view the updated capacity limits, please refer to the Sector Risk Level Guidance Chart.

Today, State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger offered a recorded 2:38-minute video segment updating the COVID-19 situation in Oregon as we head into Mother’s Day weekend. As Oregon is confronted with new and highly transmissible variants, Dr. Sidelinger calls on all eligible Oregonians to get vaccinated. You can watch the full recording here.

We’re hiring great nurses!

The Malheur County Health Department is looking to fill at least two full-time registered nurse positions. This is a great opportunity to support and promote public health in the local community.

Public health RNs work in clinical, community, and home settings to provide a broad range of nursing services aimed at prevention, treatment, education, and health policy implementation. Areas of service include but are not limited to immunization, family planning, home visiting, communicable disease, general health education, and referral.

Successful candidates will be licensed RNs in good standing in the State of Oregon and possess a valid driver’s license. Past government experience, two years of nursing experience, and being bilingual in English and Spanish are helpful but not required. Nursing students who will obtain their RN license within six months are also invited to apply. Applications will be accepted through May 11.

Visit Malheur County Employment to learn more and apply.