Happy Veterans Day!

Saint John Bosco Catholic Church – Veterans Day 2017 – Thank-you to all of  our Veterans.

Veterans, we are not only thankful to you, but also motivated by you. You have shown us how to be brave and honest. We can learn to sacrifice for our community and country during difficult times through your example. Thank you, Veterans!

Many Veterans are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease. Please wear your mask, keep your distance, avoid large gatherings, and get tested to protect our Veterans and those who are most vulnerable. We should care for them as they care for us.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – JFK

Free Rapid COVID-19 Testing Today in Ontario

Coronavirus testing: Coming to a drugstore, urgent care, living room near  you – Orange County Register

Valley Family Health Care is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing today, November 11th, from 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. in the BiMart parking lot (2283 SW 4th Ave, Ontario, OR 97914). Self swab, NO PAIN, easy tests. Drive through or walk up. Wear your mask!

Malheur County Health Department has partnered with VFHC to expand testing availability and accessibility. Please support these efforts and get tested.

Stop the spread: Considerations for gatherings

illustration of a person and child wearing masks standing six feet apart from a young woman wearing a mask

Malheur County Health Department has linked many COVID-19 cases recently to social gatherings. Malheur County continues to hold the state’s worst case rate and test positivity and tomorrow will be put on Pause. With the COVID-19 situation getting worse in our county and in surrounding counties in both Idaho and Oregon, we need the public to help stop the spread in the following ways as recommended by the CDC. This guidance is relevant and applicable to every state in the USA.

illustration of people wearing masks and celebrating by getting food from a buffet

Assess the risks

  • In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions.
  • Keep these items on hand when venturing out: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Should you go out? Learn what factors to consider before you head out.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • If you are contacted by contact tracers, follow their instructions to protect you, your family, and your community. Stay home and away from others during quarantine, get tested, and monitor your health.
illustration of a woman wearing a mask arriving for a gathering

Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk. Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (number of attendees and other factors) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection, as outlined in the Considerations for Events and Gatherings.

There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk:

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering.
  • Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear maskswash hands, and follow health rules.
    • During the Pause, Malheur County residents must limit gatherings to only household members or no more than 6 people total. Outside of the Pause, social get-togethers are limited to 10 people. Masks are required.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearinghandwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearingsocial distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
illustration of friends gathering outdoors wearing masks and six feet apart

The following people should not attend in-person gatherings

People at increased risk for severe illness
If you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.

illustration of a young family enjoying a virtual meal with an older couple

More CDC recommendations for holiday gatherings here.

Malheur on Pause starting tomorrow 11/10

The counties on pause are Baker, Clackamas, Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Umatilla, Union, Washington

After a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, nine Oregon counties will begin a two-week pause of social activities on Nov. 11. Five counties were announced on Friday and four more counties were added to the list today. Counties with a case rate above 200 per 100,000 people over a two-week period, or more than 60 cases over a two-week period for counties with less than 30,000 people have been placed on the pause. We must all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Revised “Pause” Guidance has been released to include the four additional counties the Governor added to the “Pause” list today.  The guidance is located here.

The two-week pause measures include:

  • Urging all businesses to mandate work from home to the greatest extent possible.
  • Pausing long-term care facility visits that take place indoors to protect staff and residents.
  • Reducing maximum restaurant capacity to 50 people (including customers and staff) for indoor dining, with a maximum party size of six. Continuing to encourage outdoor dining and take out.
  • Reducing the maximum capacity of other indoor activities to 50 people (includes gyms, fitness organizations/studios, bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor sports, pools and museums).
  • Limiting social gatherings to your household, or no more than six people total if the gathering includes those from outside your household. Reducing the frequency of those social gatherings (significantly in a two-week period) and keeping the same six people in your social gathering circle.
  • For more information on the two-week pause, read Governor Brown’s press release.

Reopening Guidance — Specific Counties on Pause

Today, Governor Brown announced Malheur County is one of the counties “on pause” with the following guidance released by the Oregon Health Authority.

Effective Dates: November 11, 2020 – November 25, 2020

Applicability: This guidance applies to indoor social get-togethers and indoors spaces at the following settings, businesses, or locations to the extent they are permitted in Phase One or Phase Two, in Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla counties:

  • Aquariums
  • Bowling alleys
  • Fitness-related facilities
  • Indoor entertainment facilities
  • Indoor markets
  • Facilities where K-12 school sports are practiced or played
  • Facilities where recreational sports are practiced or played
  • Licensed swimming pools, licensed spa pools and sports courts
  • Museums
  • Restaurants/Bars/Breweries/Brewpubs/Wineries/Tasting Rooms/Distilleries
  • Skating rinks
  • Venues
Indoor social get-togethers
  • The maximum capacity for an indoor social get-together in Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla counties is 6 people indoors.
Persons in charge of the settings, businesses or locations listed above in Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla counties are required to:
  • Limit the capacity to a maximum of 50 people indoor, including staff, or the number of people based on a determination of capacity (square footage/occupancy), whichever is less. Capacity must be determined by using 35 square feet per person of usable space.
    • This capacity limit requirement does not apply to or change existing capacity limits for faith-based gatherings in Phase Two counties.
  • Limit parties to 6 people or fewer.
  • Prohibit the combining of different parties or individual guests that are not part of a party at shared seating situations. People in the same party seated at the same table do not have to be six (6) feet apart.
  • Follow the applicable OHA sector guidance for all other requirements.

This guidance supersedes any conflicting, less stringent guidance that is applicable to a particular sector, business or organization for the time that it is in effect.

Authority: Executive Order No. 20-27, paragraphs 9, 21, 24, and 26, ORS 431A.010, ORS 433.441, ORS 433.443.

Free Thermometers Available to Organizations

The Malheur Local Community Advisory Council (LCAC) is happy to support community organizations in need of a thermometer to comply with state and federal COVID-19 regulations for continuation of services. Eligible organizations will receive Non-Contact Infrared Thermometers. Thermometers will be allocated based on organization type and need. There is a limited supply, so please be thoughtful if requesting more than 5 thermometers. Priority will be given to organizations serving EOCCO (Medicaid) members who live in Malheur County.

To request free thermometers from the Malheur LCAC, complete this form.

  • Please follow these brief instructions to determine eligibility and to receive your thermometers. Eligible organizations include:
    • Not-for-profit
    • Community Based Organization (CBO)
    • State or federal funded entity
    • Grant funded organization
  • Please complete the bottom portion of the form and email to Jesse Sandoval jsandoval@vfhc.org.

11/4 OHA Weekly Report Update

Malheur County COVID-19 outbreaks reported in latest Weekly Report by Oregon Health Authority.

  • Resolved outbreaks in care facilities with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related death.
    • Brookdale Assisted Living Ontario: 37 cases, 5 deaths
    • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 23 cases, 3 deaths
    • Pioneer Place: 40 cases, 2 deaths
    • Riverside Manor: 3 cases, 1 death
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 1 death
    • Nyssa Gardens: 9 cases, 0 deaths
  • Active workplace outbreaks with five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Snake River Correctional Institution: 529 cases (last week 526 cases)
  • Recently resolved workplace outbreaks with five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Amalgamated Sugar: 9 cases
  • Child care facilities reporting active COVID-19 outbreaks
    • Oregon Child Development Center – Nyssa: 7 cases (last week 7 cases)
    • Oregon Child Development Center – Ontario: 6 cases (last week 5 cases)
  • Schools with recent COVID-19 Cases
    • None
  • Schools with recently resolved COVID-19 Cases
    • Nyssa High School: student, staff/volunteers (last week 1, 4)
    • Nyssa Middle School: students, staff/volunteers (last week 0, 4)
    • Nyssa Elementary School: 1 student, 3 staff/volunteers (last week 1, 3)
    • Four Rivers Community School: 0 students, 4 staff/volunteers (last week 0, 4)
    • Vale Elementary School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer

Malheur County COVID-19 Cases by Zipcode

  • 97913 (Nyssa): 337 cases, rate of 6097.3 cases per 100,000 people
    • Last week Nyssa: 320 cases, rate of 5789.8
  • 97914 (Ontario): 1447 cases, rate of 7534.5 cases per 100,000 people
    • Last week Ontario: 1406 cases, rate of 7321.0
  • 97918 (Vale): 160 cases, rate of 3526.6 cases per 100,000 people
    • Last week Vale: 151 cases, rate of 3328.2
  • All other Malheur County Zip Codes: 90 cases
    • Zip code data pulled the previous Sunday.
    • Total cases 11/1/20 = 2034
    • Total cases in Nyssa, Ontario, Vale = 1944

If you have questions or comments on outbreaks, reporting, or cases, please call the Malheur County Health Department and ask to speak with a COVID-19 Case Investigator at 541-889-7279.

Find a COVID-19 Testing Site

Everyone who has any symptoms of COVID-19 should get a test. Anyone who has spent time with a person who has COVID-19 should also get a test, even if they don’t show symptoms. Contact any testing site first to make sure testing is still occurring and if you meet their criteria.

If you have flu-like symptoms or have reason to think you might have COVID-19, let your healthcare provider know before you visit. This will help avoid exposing anyone else at the provider’s facility.

To find a testing site, use the COVID-19 Testing in Oregon Map or call 211.

Also, multiple testing sites are available in Idaho. More information about Saint Alphonsus testing here. More information about St. Luke’s testing here.

Many healthcare providers have NEW RAPID COVID-19 TESTS AVAILABLE. These tests will help make sure people who have COVID-19 can get the care and support they need. More testing will also help contact tracers reach out to people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, so they can stay home and keep their family and community safe.

The rapid tests are fast and almost always correct at showing if you have COVID-19 (your doctor may call this a “positive test”). However, it is common for the tests to miss COVID-19 (your doctor may call this a “false negative”) — and many people who get negative test results actually do have COVID-19. If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, the best and safest thing to do is stay home for 14 days, or quarantine. If you need support while you are staying home, resources are available through the Quarantine Fund and the COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program.

Testing is only one important way to stop the spread of COVID. It is still important for everyone to:

  • wear masks
  • avoid large groups
  • stay at least 6 feet apart, and spend time outside rather than
  • indoors with people outside your immediate family
    wash your hands often.

These are the best ways for us to keep ourselves and the ones we love safe. To find a testing site, click here or call 211.

Malheur County COVID-19 Data Update

Yesterday, Malheur County surpassed 2,000 COVID-19 cases. Our thoughts are with those who are sick, those who are caring for are ill, and those who have lost someone during this pandemic.

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) strives to share as much COVID-19 case information as possible on the COVID-19 Cases page of our website and the COVID-19 Resources page for links to additional data sources.

The data table shown above shows the data from the week of the first COVID-19 case in Malheur County through the end of October. A few notable metrics:

  • The “New Total” under the “Weekly” column shows the number of tests that are reported for any Malheur County residents. With a decreasing number of tests being done, the percentage of those tests that are positive is likely to be higher.
  • The “Weekly Positivity Rate” is more important to our current testing needs than the “Cumulative Positive Rate,” because 6.5% of the population of Malheur County has already tested positive and with more limited testing earlier in the pandemic, our rate over time is likely higher than what we could achieve currently with more tests available for more people. Also, the state is now counting new negative or positive tests if the previous test was more than 90 days ago. This should significantly help our positivity rate if more people are tested repeatedly.
  • To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we need to know who is infected and isolate them and quarantine their contacts. This can not be done without testing. While increased testing may increase case numbers in the short term, it does reduce the spread of the virus when people know they are infected or exposed and follow guidance.
  • To help reduce the positive rate, more people need to be tested.

With so much data to evaluate, it’s important to keep in mind why the data is important. We need the public to be informed and know the current risk of COVID-19 around them to keep themselves and others safe. Everyone in Malheur County should follow these simple steps can save lives by to slowing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Follow the statewide requirement to wear a face covering when in indoor public spaces and outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
  • Limit social gatherings to groups of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.
  • Wash your hands often with running water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes using your sleeve or a tissue, not your bare hand.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home and away from the rest of your household if you’re feeling sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Quarantine according to public health direction if you are in close contact with a known case.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched surfaces at home and at work, including your mobile devices.

MCHD officials also ask that the public stay informed and educated through trustworthy sources of information, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Safe + Strong Oregon

ODE Releases Updated School Metrics And Safety Reminders

As part of its planned guidance and metrics review process, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is releasing an update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, including updated metrics for returning to in-person instruction. The metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, align to CDC recommendations and help Oregon meet its priority to return students to in-person instruction.

The following is the latest School Metric Data for Malheur County:

The following is the latest Watch List Data for Malheur County:

What this means for Malheur County is that as we prioritize getting students back into school in person, we have to prioritize our efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We need far more testing to improve the test positivity rate and to identify asymptomatic infections. We need everyone to follow the CDC recommendations that we know reduce the risk. If you have been in contact with someone who is sick or has tested positive, please stay home during quarantine. Answer the call from contact tracers. Avoid large gatherings. Wash your hands. Wear a mask over your mouth and nose anytime you are around people you don’t live with.

More from the Oregon Department of Education:

Since Oregon’s metrics were originally issued in August, more data has become available from school districts across the country. ODE worked with the Oregon Health Authority to establish when students can return to the classroom while still mitigating the risk of COVID-19 spread.

A key lesson from the review of national school data is that Oregon school districts can help protect student and staff health and well-being during in-person instruction when community spread is sufficiently low and when school districts strictly adhere to the health and safety protocols now in place in Oregon.

“Today we are sharing scheduled updates to our metrics for schools. Guided by data, these metrics offer an intentional and measured approach to returning to in-person instruction while recognizing the importance of meeting our kids’ academic needs—and allow for in-person instruction in places of our state where the risk of COVID-19 is lower. They also set a North Star for the rest of the state to work toward,” said ODE Director Colt Gill. “We all know that in-person instruction provides our children and families with more than access to an equitable education. Schools are a center of services to students and families, offering nutritious meals, access to social-emotional and mental health supports, as well as physical health services.” 

Key changes to the metrics include:

  • A clear set of reachable targets for communities to strive for, with a North Star of returning Oregon students to in-person instruction.
  • Acknowledgement that Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance’s strong public health protocols in structured settings like schools, can greatly reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
  • Additional time for schools to transition between in-person and distance learning models.
  • Increased access to in-person instruction at the elementary level.
  • A two Week “Look Back” at the Metrics Data rather than one week at a time over a three week period.
  • Removes State Positivity Rate in favor of county positivity rates.

ODE and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) were among the very first states to create metrics for returning to in-person instruction in early August. At that time they were based in large part on successes seen in other countries, as school was not in session in the U.S. Later, exceptions were added to make a return to in-person instruction possible for more students, where there was lower risk of COVID-19 transmission. When the metrics were first released, further review was announced, and now with additional studies and data on-hand the metrics are being revised to permit more in-person instruction while continuing to ensure that local conditions guide the process. As we learn more about the progression of COVID-19 in Oregon, the effectiveness of future vaccines and other mitigation efforts, and gain more information about the transmission of COVID-19 in structured settings like schools, ODE and OHA are committed to reviewing the metrics again in the coming weeks. 

The metrics updates take effect immediately and, based on this week’s data points, potentially allow close to 130,000 students to return to some in-person instruction. The guidance recommends that schools consider both equity and a methodical and cautious approach at the beginning that return a portion of the school population first and then add more students on-site over time. This will allow schools to build new safety routines, stabilize cohorts, and avoid sudden, disruptive transitions back to Comprehensive Distance Learning due to quarantine or isolation.

Safety Reminders

Schools are structured settings where we can reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission through key practices. Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance requires schools to comply with specific guidelines on:

  • Physical distancing
  • Face coverings
  • Hand hygiene
  • Cohorting
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Airflow and ventilation
  • And, effective screening, and responses to cases with quick access to testing and implementing isolation and quarantining 

School safety and other COVID-19 school related questions can be answered by emailing ODECOVID19@ode.state.or.us

If you believe a school is not in compliance with the safety requirements you can file a named or confidential complaint with Oregon OSHA at 1-833-604-0884 or online at: https://osha.oregon.gov/workers/Pages/index.aspx

“These metrics depend on the public doing its part to reduce Oregon’s case rates so that all of our children can return to in-person instruction,” Gill said. “Oregonians can reduce spread and send our kids back to school by wearing a face covering, maintaining distance, washing hands frequently, and avoiding group gatherings.”

Other changes to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance include:

  • Aligning with the most recent face covering requirements from Oregon Health Authority (Pages 32-35). 
  • Adding a link to the Tribal Consultation Toolkit (Page 77).
  • An exclusion guide (30).
  • Aligning to recent CDC changes to “close contact” definition (29).

Health and Education Leaders Weigh In

Video: Oregon Health Authority’s Dr. Tom Jeanne talks about revisions to school metrics.

Video: Salem-Keizer School District Superintendent Christy Perry talks about the importance of In-person instruction.

Video: Press Briefing with Gov. Kate Brown, Oct. 30, 2020