Know someone who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine?

The Malheur County Health Department will host COVID-19 vaccine clinics every Thursday at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, as long as vaccine continues to be available. Our next clinic is this Thursday, Feb. 11. Please help us spread the word to those who are eligible – everyone in Phase 1a, and Groups 1 and 2 of Phase 1b. Download and share this flyer, available in English and Spanish.

Malheur County sees significant drop in test positivity; no change to risk level status

The weekly Risk Level Metrics: Schools and Counties report released today by the Oregon Health Authority shows a significant drop in the COVID-19 test positivity rate for Malheur County, one of two indicators used in determining which of the four risk levels the county is in.

Part of the drop in test positivity rate is likely attributable to a change in the way the state measures data. Previously, only electronic lab reports, or ELRs, were being measured, meaning tests results that were not submitted from a lab were not counted in the test totals. It appears that Malheur County’s electronic case reports, or ECRs, that come from rapid tests such as the BinaxNOW tests used by Malheur County Health Department, have been added to the overall totals, beginning with the week of Jan. 10.

While the drop in positivity rates is a step closer to moving Malheur County out of the Extreme Risk level, the rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 over 14 days remains high, at 306. That number would have to be less than 200 for movement to occur.

“We’re not there yet but we’re getting closer, and these numbers are worth celebrating. The case count is coming down as well, and that’s a direct result of the people of Malheur County following safety guidelines. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing so we can get the county back open for everyone,” MCHD Sarah Poe said.

Weekly reports are posted on the MCHD website as they become available. Visit our COVID-19 CASES page regularly to follow Malheur County’s status.

Oregonians age 80+ become eligible for vaccination on Monday

On Monday, Oregon seniors age 80 and older will become eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but not all who want a vaccine will be able to get one next week. Demand for the vaccine exceeds the supply that is currently available in counties throughout the state. Oregon Governor Kate Brown addressed the issue during a press conference today.

“I want to thank our seniors for their patience thus far, and for their continued patience in the coming days and weeks. We are still managing a scarce resource. There will be hiccups in this process, but we are going to get through them. Signing up for an appointment will look different based on your community and your health care provider,” Gov. Brown said.

In Malheur County, eligible vaccine seekers currently have three options:

“We are currently prioritizing the older adults in our community and will be scheduling a weekly opportunity for them to be vaccinated, as long as vaccine allocations continue,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said.

The first vaccine clinic scheduled in Malheur County that will be open to those age 80+ based on age will take place inside the Four Rivers Cultural Center on Thursday, Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or as long as vaccines last. It is open to people in Phase 1a through 1b Group 2. Roughly 300 first doses of the Moderna vaccine will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine. Administration fees will be billed to insurance when insurance is available. Attendees are asked to bring their insurance card(s) and wear a mask.

Attendees should use the south entrance of the cultural center, near the theater. The back parking lot, located between the cultural center and Treasure Valley Community College’s Weese Building, will provide the closest access. Several wheelchairs will be available for use. Although the event takes place indoors, participants will likely be required to stand in line outdoors for a period of time and are encouraged to dress according to the weather and be prepared to stand for a while. If standing is difficult, attendees can bring someone to stand in their place while they wait in a vehicle for their turn.

All Oregonians age 65 and older will be eligible for vaccination by March 1. They will be followed by frontline workers and people with underlying health conditions.

Starting Monday, the covidvaccine.oregon.gov site will include a new tool—Get Vaccinated Oregon— to help people determine eligibility and to sign up for email alerts and text notifications when they become eligible. Seniors living independently with questions can also call 2-1-1 for information. To help ensure the phone lines are running smoothly, Gov. Brown is deploying National Guard members to help staff the call center.

A copy of the governor’s prepared remarks from today’s press conference is available here.

A recording of today’s live-streamed press conference is available here.

We’re hosting a vaccine clinic on Saturday: Here’s who is eligible

The Malheur County Health Department will administer 400 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, Feb. 6, to people who live or work in Malheur County and are in Phase 1a and Phase 1b.1. Those are typically considered the “healthcare” and “teacher” phases of the vaccine rollout, but eligibility goes beyond those simple identifiers.

For example, a 47-year-old woman who provides care to her 72-year-old father-in-law is eligible to be vaccinated, and her father-in-law is, too. They qualify under Phase 1a-Group 3. Similarly, the parents of a medically fragile 3-year-old are also eligible, regardless of where they work or how old they are. Under Phase 1b.1, someone who provides childcare in their home is currently eligible, as are all the staff of an early learning facility.

Here’s a breakdown of eligibility:

Phase 1a Group 1

  • Hospital staff with patient care responsibilities
  • Urgent care
  • Skilled nursing and memory care facility healthcare personnel and residents
  • Tribal health programs
  • Emergency medical services providers and other first responders
  • All health care interpreters and traditional health workers in any setting within Phase 1a

Group 2

  • Other long-term care facilities, including all paid and unpaid healthcare personnel, all staff and contractors, including residents who meet the age requirements of:
  • Residential care facilities
  • Adult foster care
  • Group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Other similar congregate care sites
  • Hospice programs
  • Mobile crisis care and related services
  • Individuals working in a correctional setting

Group 3

  • Healthcare personnel in outpatient settings serving specific high-risk groups
  • Day treatment services
  • Non-emergency medical transport
  • Paid or unpaid caregivers (including parents or foster parents) of medically fragile children or adults who live at home
  • Adults and age-eligible children who have a medical condition or disability who receive services in their homes

Group 4

  • All other outpatient healthcare personnel
  • Other healthcare personnel who provide direct service to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other high-risk populations
  • Other public health settings, such as healthcare personnel serving WIC, or community-based organizations with direct or indirect exposures

Phase 1b Group 1

Childcare providers, early learning and K-12 educators and staff

VACCINE EVENT DETAILS

Saturday’s indoor vaccine clinic will take place at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, located at  676 SW 5th Ave. in Ontario, from 10 a.m. until roughly 2 p.m., or as long as vaccines last. Vaccine will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine. Administration fees will be billed to insurance when insurance is available; please bring your insurance card(s). You are also asked to wear a mask.

Please use the south entrance of the cultural center, near the theater. The back parking lot, located between the cultural center and TVCC’s Weese Building, will provide the closest access. Several wheelchairs will be available for use. Although the event takes place indoors, participants will likely be required to stand in line outdoors for a period of time. Please dress according to the weather and be prepared to stand for a while.

Health Department promotes increased testing in light of outbreaks, positivity rate increase

The Malheur County Health Department will offer free drive-up COVID-19 testing this Friday, Feb. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Vale High School. Everyone is eligible; no symptoms, exposure or documentation are required. The event is in response to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases in Malheur County, particularly at Vale High School.

Due to the drive-through nature of the event, test result forms will not be available; however, people who test positive will be notified. Additionally, all negative and positive student test results will be shared with Vale School District administration.

In addition to outbreaks affecting Malheur County schools and businesses, the state’s most recent county metrics report prompted a call for increased testing as the positivity rate is on an upward trend over the past four weeks.

“The report released by the Oregon Health Authority yesterday shows that our case count per 100,000 people has dropped from 499.5 to 415.2, which is great, but it also shows that our test positivity rate has jumped from 14.3% to 16.1%. That’s a significant increase,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said. “We know that the way to get that positivity rate down is to do more testing. You can help slow the spread of COVID-19, reduce the positivity rate, and get the county open again by getting tested.”

TESTING AVAILABILITY IN MALHEUR COUNTY

Malheur County Health Department offers free COVID-19 testing by appointment four days a week at the MCHD office:

  • Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., 1-3 p.m. (except Feb. 5)

For an appointment or more information, call 541-889-7279.

Valley Family Health Care is offering COVID-19 testing every Monday in February, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Treasure Valley Community College baseball field in Ontario. Anyone requesting a test will be tested. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and test results are available in 15 minutes. Call VFHC at 208-452-6661 for more information.

Snake River Pediatrics Clinic, call for information, 541-216-6556.

Rite Aid, appointment required, CALL 541-889-3390.

More information is available at COVID Testing in Oregon.

Vaccine Advisory Committee makes final recommendations

During its final official meeting last week, Oregon’s 27-member COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) recommended that four groups move forward concurrently once Oregon has vaccinated a critical mass of seniors. Those groups would be:

  • Adults 16-64 with underlying health conditions
  • Front-line workers (to be defined)
  • Adults and youth in custody 16 years and older
  • People living in low income and congregate senior housing

People who live in multi-generational households would be next in line behind these groups, followed by the general population. 

As a next step, Oregon Health Authority staff will review the operational and legal dimensions of the recommendations before they are referred to Governor Kate Brown. The committee has an optional meeting on Feb. 2 to discuss implementation issues.

The Malheur County Health Department will provide an update on vaccine sequencing when more information is available.

Malheur County sees significant increase in COVID-19 outbreaks

Case investigations have revealed a concerning rise in the number of people infected with COVID-19 in outbreaks throughout the county, the most significant in Vale and Ontario.

“We’re very concerned with this trend of outbreaks, especially in the 97918 ZIP code, including Vale and Willowcreek areas. With a number of new infections linked in the last three weeks, there is the potential for a significant increase in cases when people don’t follow precautions. This hurts schools and businesses and risks the health and safety of the elderly and most vulnerable. We need to act swiftly as a community to stop the spread,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

There are currently at least three outbreaks with active cases in Vale, including Vale High School, Vale Elementary School, and at the Malheur County Jail. Ontario outbreaks include Fry Foods, Baker-Murakami Produce, and Snake River Correctional Institution.

The Oregon Health Authority details outbreaks by county in its Weekly Outbreak Report, the most recent published on Jan. 27. While all of the known outbreaks are included in the current report, the numbers and dates of most recent onset are no longer accurate in some cases.

“We know, through our case investigations, that these outbreaks are growing,” Poe said. “People who have even mild symptoms, please be tested and isolate immediately. If you believe you have had potential exposure, get tested and quarantine.”

It is also important that those who test positive and are contacted by a case investigator share accurate information about who they have been in contact with. This is critical to efforts to contain the spread of virus and protect public health.

More information about how to respond if you have symptoms or believe you have been exposed are available on Oregon’s Safe + Strong website. The site provides a symptom checker and a ways to help you and your family stay safe. For testing availability in Malheur County, visit COVID-19 testing in Malheur County.

Are you in the educator group now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination?

As of Monday, educators—including public and private K-12 educators and staff, early childhood educators and staff, and licensed childcare centers and staff—are eligible to start getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The following is a list of those currently included in Phase 1b-Group 1, which may be updated as further policy guidance is released.

Early Childhood Educators and Staff, Child Care Providers and Staff

  • Emergency Child Care (ECC) facilities
  • License-exempt caregivers providing the Oregon Department of Human Services subsidized child care in their own home or in the child’s home
  • Licensed and recorded non-ECC facilities (home-based or center-based)
  • Office of Child Care (OCC) investigators
  • Individuals in the substitute provider pool

Public and private K-12 Educators and Staff

  • Public and Private K-12 school system staff include (district paid and contracted) include:
  • Teachers & substitute teachers
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Bus drivers
  • Custodians: maintenance, facilities
  • Nutrition staff
  • School office staff
  • School administrators
  • Counselors and mental health support staff
  • Health staff
  • Childcare staff
  • Library staff
  • Other educators and school staff in the school
  • Student and practicum teachers and their supervisors
  • Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education staff
  • Coaches and officials
  • Extracurricular and program staff (including community partners who provide services to students and families on school campuses, as well as programs like outdoor school)
  • District and education service district staff who spend time on school campuses (teacher coaches, TOSAs, IT, etc.)

County risk levels updated, guidance modified for some indoor activity

County risk levels under the state’s public health framework to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19 were updated yesterday. The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level. Effective Jan. 29 through Feb. 11, there will be 25 counties, including Malheur, in the Extreme Risk level, two at High Risk, two at Moderate Risk, and seven at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also announced modifications to the guidance for indoor activities in Extreme Risk counties, which will take effect Jan. 29.

These modifications allow for a maximum of six people indoors at facilities over 500 square feet (for all indoor activities except dining) with associated guidance for ongoing physical distancing, cleaning protocols and face coverings. For facilities smaller than 500 square feet, the modified guidance allows for 1:1 customer experiences, such as personal training.

“The science has shown us that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities when it comes to the spread of COVID 19, which is why we have clearly delineated guidance between indoor and outdoor activities,” said Governor Brown. “We have seen over the last several weeks that Oregonians have largely complied with risk levels to the point that we have not seen a surge in hospitalizations that would have jeopardized hospital capacity. This means we are able to make these adjustments for Extreme Risk counties, which should assist both businesses and Oregonians as we continue to work to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Updates to Warning Week data and county risk levels, as well as updated guidance, will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov by Jan. 29.  

COVID-19 testing available in Malheur County

Malheur County Health Department offers BinaxNOW drive-up testing to people who live or work in Malheur County and have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. There is no out-of-pocket cost and no insurance required. Test results are available in 15 minutes.

Testing is available by appointment on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule.

Valley Family Health Care is offering COVID-19 testing every Monday through Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Treasure Valley Community College baseball field in Ontario. Anyone requesting a test will be tested. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and test results are available in 15 minutes. Call VFHC at 208-452-6661 for more information.

Snake River Pediatrics Clinic, call for information, 541-216-6556

Rite Aid, appointment required, 541-889-3390

More information is available at COVID Testing in Oregon.