State lifts COVID-19 response measures as federal emergency ends

Lifting of COVID-19 vaccine requirement for education, health care workers among other changes taking effect in coming weeks

In alignment with the federal COVID-19 public health emergency ending May 11, state health officials today announced the lifting of health-protective measures that helped reduce COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and expanded access to services during the pandemic.

The changes affect a wide range of programs and services. Some changes are effective May 11, and others will take effect in the coming weeks. Other changes put in place during the COVID-19 emergency will continue after the end of the federal emergency.

“These changes are an acknowledgement of the progress we’ve made over the last three-plus years,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “However, we know COVID-19 will remain a part of our lives for years to come, so we need to continue taking steps that prevent its spread, such as staying up to date with vaccinations. My thoughts go out to those sick with COVID-19, mourning a loved one, or still suffering with symptoms following their acute infection.”

Highlights of the changes resulting from the ending of the federal public health emergency are as follows:

Vaccination requirements

Effective Thursday (May 11), workers in health care settings will no longer be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under state rules, OHA announced today. A similar vaccination requirement for teachers and school staff in private and public education settings will lift June 17, the end of the last week of school, to support consistency in student instruction through this school year.

Exposure, isolation guidance

A five-day period of isolation for those infected with COVID-19 also will no longer be recommended for the general population, including people in K-12 education settings. Oregon public health officials believe widespread population immunity due to vaccination and repeated infections means many COVID-19 infections are now likely asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the five-day isolation period is doing little to reduce transmission.

Instead, officials say, the recommendation for the general population will be to stay home until fever free for 24 hours and symptoms are improving; avoid contact with individuals at increased risk for severe disease, including older adults and those with underlying medical conditions; and consider masking for 10 days.

School testing

Diagnostic testing resources for students and staff with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 in schools will remain available through July 31, 2024. iHealth self-tests will remain available for K-12 schools to request and distribute to their school communities until current stock is depleted. Weekly opt-in “screening” testing for K-12 students and staff without COVID-19 symptoms will end July 31 as funding for the effort wraps up.

The endings of the vaccination, isolation and some testing measures are among a spate of impending changes over the coming weeks as Oregon, and the nation, continue the long, careful transition out of the pandemic. A number of “flexibilities” put in place during the pandemic will remain in effect.

The following are among the COVID-era activities and requirements that will continue after May 11:

  • An extension of a 90-day “reasonable opportunity period” for non-citizens to verify citizenship or immigration status to 180 days so they can enroll in Oregon Health Plan (OHP).
  • A requirement that OHP providers, including coordinated care organizations, continue to cover COVID-19 vaccinations and treatment without cost sharing, and that commercial health insurers cover vaccinations without cost sharing. In Oregon, vaccinations are covered no matter where someone gets a shot. Oregonians should contact their health care provider about where they can get vaccinated.
  • A requirement that Oregon health care providers be reimbursed for language interpreter services (spoken or signed) provided during an office visit.
  • A requirement that OHP providers offer access to telehealth services.
  • In addition, state officials are currently implementing previously announced changes in access to Medicaid coverage and other human services programs administered by the state and federal governments.

The following are among many other changes taking effect May 11:

COVID-19 reporting

  • A change in how OHA monitors COVID-19. Epidemiologists will transition to a more sustainable and effective model that focuses on measures that indicate transmission, and continue monitoring for severe outcomes, including hospitalizations and death. Case data, which is based on individual laboratory test reporting and is heavily biased, will be retired. The changes align with CDC recommendations and mirror how influenza is monitored.
  • A change in how OHA reports COVID-19 data. Epidemiologists will streamline data reporting to a smaller number of dashboards updated weekly. Data visualizations will include graphs showing statewide percent positivity, wastewater levels and trends, distribution of variants, hospitalization rates and capacity, death counts, emergency department visit and vaccination trends. Dashboards with case counts and county data will be archived.

Health coverage, supports

  • The end of extended health coverage, services and supports for people with disabilities and older adults, and extra food benefits that were provided during federal emergency. Continuous coverage for Medicaid also is ending. Oregon began a “redetermination” process April 1 to help people renew their OHP membership and other Medicaid benefits, and stay on the plan, and is encouraging members to keep mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses current to ensure they receive information about their benefits in the coming months. More information about the renewals process and options for updating contact information is at Those with questions can reach out to the ONE Customer Service Center at 800-699-9075 (TTY 711) from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday through Friday.

Syringe/Sharps Disposal Containers

We’ve had recent requests from other counties and community partners about our amazing sharps bins we’ve set up in Ontario, Nyssa, and Vale. Last year, we collected approximately 25,000 used syringes and 15,000 in 2021. These are safe ways to dispose of syringes left on the ground and from home. People can dispose used needles and syringes into sharps disposal drop boxes 24 hours a day, confidentially, and safely. We’re lucky to have a local business that has manufactured high-quality bins to fit the standard large, red sharps and biohazard waste containers.

The local business building these containers is Enterprise Sales. They can be contacted at 541-889-5541 or

To learn more about the Malheur County Health Department syringe exchange and peer program, contact us at 541-889-7279.

Safety Tips

  • Avoid touching or handling needles or syringes found in public places. Parents and caregivers should remind children not to touch needles in parks and playgrounds.
  • If you are accidentally stuck by another person’s used needle or other sharp:
    • Wash the exposed area right away with water and soap or use a skin disinfectant (antiseptic) such as rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. 
    • Seek immediate medical attention by calling your provider right away or going to your local hospital emergency department. Providers will check your immunization status and may begin preventative treatment.

How do I safely dispose of a syringe?

Follow this step by step guide about how to safely pick up and dispose of syringes.

Step 1: Pick it up

To avoid health risk wear gloves like gardening or kitchen gloves. Some people use tongs, pliers, or a trash grabber. This is a good idea, especially for anyone who is going to pick up a lot of syringes or who is doing a community clean up. 

Step 2: Drop it in

  • Use a hard plastic container such as a sharps container or 20oz water or juice bottle with a lid.
  • Set the container on the ground
  • Drop the syringes in one at a time needle point down

Step 3: Seal it up

  • Close the container tight
  • Seal the top with a piece of tape
  • Label container “sharps do not recycle”

Step 4: Drop it off

Go to the nearest drop box and dispose of syringes one at a time to avoid potential harm.

Thank you for keeping our community safe. 

Peer Recovery Groups Cancelled This Week

There will be no recovery groups meeting at the Malheur County Health Department this week.

The Peer Support Services program typically holds three recovery groups each week: SMART Recovery and PeerZone are open to the public and another group meets for peers working in recovery services locally. For the week of July 7-13, 2023, all groups are cancelled while staff are in training.

We still welcome walk-ins or appointments for syringe exchange, Narcan, rapid testing, and the many other services available at the Health Department. Come by or call us at 541-889-7279.

We hope to see more people at our recovery groups later in the month. Join us at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Find all class times on the events calendar.

Save the Date: WIC Farmers Market

Save the date for Tuesday-Wednesday, July 11th and 12th, for the WIC Farmers Market at the Malheur County Health Department. Red Barn Produce will have fruits and vegetables for sale to the public and for Farm Direct Nutrition Program recipients to spend their checks, including WIC Farm Direct and Senior Farm Direct participants. If you are current on WIC, you may be eligible to receive $28 worth of WIC Farm Direct checks to use at the Farmers Market or at local farm stands during the season.

To learn more about WIC, see the Spotlight on Malheur County WIC Program. If you are pregnant or have a child under the age of five, call us at 541-889-7279 to find out if you’re eligible and sign up for services.

Share the Farmers’ Market event on Facebook here and the graphics in English and Spanish below. Remember to mark your calendar for July 11-12, 2023!

Learning Lab Today & Updated Flyer

Join us today, May 3rd, at 1 p.m. at the Health Department for our monthly Learning Lab! This is a great way to meet our team and others in the community. Show your support for public health, eat some snacks, and learn something new!

This month, we’re learning all about Family Planning from our amazing nurse, Tracy. Check out the Spotlight on Family Planning here.

We made some changes to the schedule for the upcoming labs, moving the July date to the 19th, to not overlap with the WIC Farmers Market, happening July 11-12th. Please share this flyer and the Facebook event. Mark your calendars, bring your friends and colleagues, and we hope to see you monthly!

Spotlight on Malheur County Family Planning Program

Who are we?

  • A group of caring nurses and a nurse practitioner who offer high quality reproductive health services and birth control.
  • Most services will be free or low cost to everyone, regardless of immigration status, sex, or gender identity.
  • Short term methods available on same day as visit.

What types of services are available at our clinic?

  • Birth control and condoms
  • Women’s check-ups, including breast exams and Pap tests
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
  • HPV and other immunizations
  • Information about tubal ligations and vasectomy and how to access resources
  • Coming soon, colposcopy services if needed after abnormal Pap

Who qualifies for our services?

  • Individuals who can get pregnant OR get someone else pregnant.  Most anyone under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level is likely eligible for free reproductive health services.
  • Reproductive health is not just for women! We serve men as well.
  • Youth of any age may make an appointment/obtain services without parental consent

How to access our services?

  • Call to make an appointment today 541-889-7279
  • Walk-ins accepted upon nurse availability


  • To increase the number of teens who access our services
  • To increase the number of males that we serve in our clinic
  • To increase the percentage of clients using long-acting reversible contraception

COVID-19 at-home tests & resources

The Malheur County Health Department has many free, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests available for pick up at our clinic during business hours. Call us at 541-889-7279 or walk in to 1108 SW 4th St, Ontario, Oregon. While you’re here, start Health is Wealth and get $100 to Albertsons once you complete the program!

The FDA has released new information this month on At-Home Over the Counter (OTC) COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests. At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are authorized for self-testing. This means you collect your own sample, perform the test, and read the result yourself without the need to send a sample to a lab.

To see if the expiration date for your at-home COVID-19 test has been extended, refer to this table, find the row that matches the manufacturer and test name shown on the box label of your test.  

  • If the Expiration Date column says that the shelf-life is “extended,” there is a link to “updated expiration dates” where you can find a list of the original expiration dates and the new expiration dates. Find the original expiration date on the box label of your test and then look for the new expiration date in the “updated expiration dates” table for your test.   
  • If the Expiration Date column does not say the shelf-life is extended, that means the expiration date on the box label of your test is still correct. The table will say “See box label” instead of having a link to updated expiration dates.  

Although case rates and serious illness have decreased in Malheur County and across the region, the virus is still in the area with cases identified each week. Thirteen cases were reported last week, with a test positivity of 13.2%. These tests are only those reported from healthcare providers and laboratories, who are testing people who may be sick or exposed. Find more about county case counts, deaths, and test positivity here.

Find the FDA table for the list of approved COVID-19 rapid home tests and their expiration extensions here.

If you test positive, it is not necessary for you to report your positive test result to the Malheur County Health Department or the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Whether or not you have symptoms, stay home and separate from others for five days. Continue to isolate from others until you have been fever free for 24 hours and other symptoms are improving. Wear a mask around others for an additional five days. If you have questions or need help, Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 or visit Learn more about what to do if you test positive from the OHA here.

Related Information:

Don’t Miss: Pathway to Preschool May 19th

We are pleased to support an event coming up for families with preschool-aged children in Malheur County. The Eastern Oregon Early Learning and Care Network will be hosting Pathway to Preschool at the Four Rivers Cultural Center on Friday, May 19th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Malheur County Health Department will have a booth with free vaccines and information on WIC and home visiting programs. There will be activities for children, a food truck, and many opportunities to learn about local preschool programs. Each family that attends will receive two tickets to the FRCC Dinosaur Exhibit.

Mark your calendars and please share the flyers in English and Spanish. We hope to see you there!

Congenital Syphilis on the Rise & Treatment Available

Not only is congenital syphilis increasing in the United States, we have increasing syphilis and congenital syphilis cases in Oregon and Idaho. Congenital syphilis (CS) is a disease that occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy. Learn more about syphilis.

You can have syphilis and not know it. Many people with syphilis do not have any symptoms. Also, syphilis symptoms may be very mild, or be similar to signs of other health problems. The only way to know for sure if you have syphilis is to get tested. Syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Call your healthcare provider or our clinic at 541-889-7279 to book an appointment for confidential testing.

The following two graphs show the increase in cases of syphilis and congenital syphilis in Oregon. Find these and other statistics on Oregon’s Weekly Communicable Disease Report.

If you are pregnant and have syphilis, you can give the infection to your unborn baby. Having syphilis can lead to a low-birth-weight-baby. It can make it more likely you will deliver your baby too early or stillborn (a baby born dead). To protect your baby, you should receive syphilis testing at least once during your pregnancy. Receive treatment right away if you test positive.  It is also important that your sex partner(s) receive treatment. Having syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again. Even after you’ve been successfully treated, you can still be reinfected. For this reason you must continue to take actions that will reduce your risk of getting a new infection.

At birth, a baby with a syphilis infection may not have signs or symptoms of disease. However, if the baby does not receive treatment right away, the baby may develop serious problems within a few weeks. These babies can have health problems, such as cataracts, deafness, or seizures, and can die.

Your baby will not get CS if you do not have syphilis. There are two important things you can do to protect your baby from getting CS and the health problems associated with the infection:

  • Get a syphilis test at your first prenatal visit.
  • Reduce your risk of getting syphilis before and during your pregnancy.

Talk with your doctor about your risk for syphilis. Have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing. Your doctor can give you the best advice on any testing and treatment that you may need.

Prenatal care is essential to the overall health and wellness of you and your unborn child. The sooner you begin receiving medical care during pregnancy, the better the health outcomes will be for you and your unborn baby.

Remember that it’s possible to get syphilis and not know it, because sometimes the infection causes no symptoms, only very mild symptoms, or symptoms that mimic other illnesses.

Learn more from the CDC.

Caregiver Conference Saturday, 4/22

We are joining the 22nd Annual Caregiver Conference this Saturday from 8 to 5 at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. We hope you will connect with us and take advantage of this amazing event, hosted by Four Rivers Health Community. The Malheur County Health Department will have two booths and co-facilitate one of the many sessions.

There are many types of caregivers — some are volunteers, others are paid, and many are family members caring for children, seniors, and those unable to care for themselves. A caregiver is anyone providing care to others, from birth to end of life. Positive, supported, healthy caregiving is definitely public health. This conference is an excellent opportunity to promote the well-being of those receiving and giving care. We hope you will register and attend!

Please download and share the fliers in English and Spanish. Also, follow 4RHC on Facebook and share their posts on the conference.

Register on Eventbrite.

The Caregiver Conference offers diverse sessions, opportunities for networking, exhibitor booths and a silent auction. Designed with the interests of caregivers in mind, sessions cover an array of important topics. Childcare providers, early educators, parents/grandparents, foster parents and others working with children will learn about the benefits of Conscious Discipline, offered in both English and Spanish.

The morning keynote by Tammy Vogt, and lunch plenary by Cheyenne Bennion, as well as select workshops for caregivers of older adults will be available with Spanish translation. Additional workshops for caregivers of special populations such as veterans, disabled individuals, as well as mental health, behavioral health, and general self-care topics are among the many being offered. Whether you care for children or adults, you are sure to find something of interest.

Workshop materials, morning refreshments and lunch are all included. Scholarships available! You can also earn continuing education credits and professional development units. Call Jane Padgett with any questions at 541-805-9693 or email