Daily COVID-19 Count Perspective

Six new COVID-19 positive cases and 10 negative tests were reported today in Malheur County. While it’s fewer cases than we’ve had in a while, it’s at a 38% positive rate for the day. Also, four new people who live in Malheur County were hospitalized for care for COVID-19, bringing the total currently hospitalized to six.

Please take the increasing risks seriously and do your part by wearing face coverings, staying home with symptoms or while in isolation or quarantine, and maintaining physical distance from those you don’t live with. These actions work to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 infections.

Malheur County on State Watch List as Cases Climb

Image may contain: text that says 'OREGON COUNTIES ON THE COVID-19 WATCH LIST Jefferson Lake Lincoln Malheur Morrow Umatilla Union Wasco Updated July'

Malheur County has one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases in the state, with 107 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last week, bringing the total case count to 204. Over 150 of those people are potentially still infectious. The rate of positive tests has more than doubled since June 23rd and the number of cases has more than tripled in the same time. In response to these alarming numbers, the Office of the Governor Kate Brown reported yesterday that eight counties, including Malheur, are on a Watch List and will face restrictions if metrics don’t improve.

We support this action because we are at a critical point in this pandemic. The coronavirus is all around us and we need solutions from multiple approaches to get us out of such a dangerous time, as quickly as possible. We need government advocacy, business adherence to guidance, community-based organization backing, and most importantly, for the people who live and work in Malheur County to take responsibility for their part in protecting our community. This can be done by wearing face coverings, maintaining at least 6-foot distance between people in different households, staying home with symptoms, and complying with isolation and quarantine orders. We need the state, businesses, and the public to help make this happen.

It is our goal to reopen Malheur County as soon as possible safely. We want kids to be able to go back to school in person this fall and for public life to resume, with events and thriving businesses. However, to get there, it will take a serious effort by the public to reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission. It is time for the county to pause and reassess readiness as COVID-19 poses such a great risk to our continued reopening.

The time to follow the guidance is not after we have more hospitalizations, wide-spread infections, and hundreds of people quarantined. We know what works to slow the spread and we did a great job preventing outbreaks for many weeks after the first case was reported in Malheur County on March 30th. After entering Phase 2, we had an increase in cases, more hospitalizations, and significant community spread, where the virus comes from an unknown case. While on the Watch List, the Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce and elected officials will work with the state to find solutions that work for our community to slow the spread.

The Management Action Points in the Reopening Plan for Malheur County included stopping to reassess if we had a total of 20 new cases in a week. If any of the Action Points were met, “a hold could be placed on moving forward with any other public life or business sector reopening to allow time for more case investigation to occur.” In the last seven days, we had more than five times that number.

It is our recommendation that face coverings are enforced in indoor public spaces, that businesses receive timely follow up to complaints to follow their specific guidance, and that people avoid gatherings of more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors. Many cases have been linked to gatherings where people are often eating, drinking or talking without face coverings. No large events should be held at this time. Additional restrictions may be made by the state or considered by the county if the rate of positive cases continues to increase.

It is absolutely crucial that everyone do their part to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for themselves and those who are most vulnerable in our county. It will take several solutions from all sectors of our community to flatten the curve of new infections and save lives.

COVID-19 Trends

With 107 new cases in the last week, the rate of new COVID-19 cases in Malheur County is increasing at a phenomenal rate. The above graph shows the rate of new cases over 14 weeks, since our first lab-confirmed positive case was reported the week of March 29th.

As record numbers of Oregonians, including those in Malheur, have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, many have wondered if that’s simply due to increased testing. Although testing has increased, the positive test rate, which shows the prevalence of the virus, has increased. By offering tests to more and more people at a lower threshold, meaning people with fewer or no symptoms are included in testing, the positive test rate should go down as the number of tests increases. Last week, 574 COVID-19 tests were reported in Malheur County, far more than any week prior and yet the positive test rate went up to 10.2%. The takeaway is that COVID-19 is spreading more rampantly and we are not doing enough testing to keep up with the increasing infections.

We are hopeful that by being transparent with as much data as possible, while protecting private health information, the public will better understand the increasing risk of COVID-19 transmission in Malheur County. Malheur County Health Department urges everyone to follow the preventive measures that will prevent outbreaks and protect those who are most vulnerable from severe illness or death.

Governor Brown Press Release: Enforcement & Malheur on Watch List

Governor Kate Brown Launches July 4th Face Covering Enforcement Statewide for Restaurants, Bars, and Other Businesses

In light of rising COVID-19 case counts over the month of June, including a record-high 375 cases yesterday, Governor Kate Brown today announced stepped up enforcement statewide on face covering, physical distancing, and occupancy standards in place for businesses. The effort, led by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), will ensure restaurants, bars, and other businesses comply with COVID-related rules over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and thereafter.

She also added 8 Oregon counties to a Watch List for COVID-19: Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wasco. The spread of COVID-19 in these counties has risen to alarming levels in recent weeks. Analysis by the Oregon Health Authority showed alarmingly high per capita rates of case increases and community spread––cases where the infections are not attributable to a specific location or event. This community spread is a serious warning sign for health experts.

Counties on the Watch List will be monitored in the coming days while the Oregon Health Authority and local officials deploy additional capacity to control the spread of the disease. If the counties do not see a downturn quickly, restrictive measures such as business closures or tighter gathering size limits will ensue.

“I am asking Oregonians this holiday weekend to take urgent steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing face coverings, avoiding large gatherings, and physically distancing,” said Governor Kate Brown. “And state enforcement agencies will be out in force to ensure businesses are in compliance. Those businesses not complying with gathering size limits, face covering requirements, physical distancing rules, and other standards face stiff penalties.”

Staff from the OLCC, supported by OSHA field offices across the state, will be conducting spot checks and inspections all over Oregon during the holiday weekend to ensure restaurants, bars, other businesses, and their patrons are complying with state alcohol laws, OLCC rules, and the requirement to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces. The compliance effort comes after the state reached a new record of 375 new cases of COVID-19 across the state on Thursday.

For businesses that refuse to comply, OSHA and OLCC staff are empowered to take administrative action including issuing citations, fines, and Red Warning Notices if necessary. Red Warning Notices apply to businesses that appear to be in willful violation of the Governor’s executive orders or who refuse to take corrective measures. Such businesses are closed until the hazardous condition is remedied. Violation of a Red Warning Notice results in stiff penalties.

The Governor added, “We stand at a crossroads this weekend––we can either stop the spread of COVID-19, or infections and hospitalizations will rise across Oregon and I will reinstate restrictive measures in impacted counties and business sectors.”

Source: July 3, 2020 Press Release: Office of the Governor Kate Brown

Positive Test Rate Tops 10%

Today, the Malheur County Health Department reported 31 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 191. Two people are hospitalized. The rate of positive tests of total tests completed for today is 10.1%. We need to be below 5% positive tests to know we’re doing sufficient testing. This tells us we have significant increase in infections and that there are likely more cases out there that we have not identified.

The Oregon Department of Human Services reports on nursing, residential care and assisted living facilities reporting that they have a staff member or resident with COVID-19. Their recent report lists Brookdale in Ontario. The Malheur County Health Department completed surveillance testing earlier this week and today’s cases include positive cases from that testing. A total of 26 cases between staff and residents are connected to the care facility.

The Oregon Department of Corrections is reporting 7 COVID-19 positive cases of staff and 1 positive case of an Adult in Custody at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) in Ontario.

Due to such a concerning surge in overall cases and cases in high risk settings, Public Health officials are urging every person to follow the guidance to wear face coverings, maintain physical distance, avoid large gatherings, and stay home with even mild symptoms.

How severe is the pandemic in our community?

How severe is the spread of COVID-19 in our community? Though state and local dashboards provide lots of numbers, it’s often unclear how to interpret them — and hard to compare them to other places.

Researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute are leading a collaboration of top scientists who have joined forces to create a unified set of metrics, including a shared definition of risk levels — and tools for communities to fight the coronavirus.

The collaboration launched these tools Wednesday, including a new, online risk-assessment map that allows people to check the state or the county where they live and see a COVID-19 risk rating of green, yellow, orange or red.

Payette County, Idaho and Malheur County, Oregon are both in the red zone, showing the highest level of risk of more than 25 new daily cases per 100,000 people. This indicates unchecked community spread and according to the Harvard Global Health Institute, “stay at home orders are necessary.”

At the red level, “jurisdictions have reached a tipping point for uncontrolled spread,” according to the collaborative’s guidance. At this level, “you really need to be back at a stay-at-home advisory,” said Ellie Graeden of the Center for Global Health, Science and Security at Georgetown University, which is part of the group that developed the metrics.

To learn more from the Harvard Global Health Institute, read their Key Metrics for COVID Suppression, which explains how they assess core metrics for the data used in the interactive map.

It’s important that everyone who lives in Malheur County and our neighboring high risk communities understand the what a critical moment we are in to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read and share guidance from Safe Strong Oregon and other reputable sources and talk with your household about how your actions can reduce the risk for your family and our county.

Article adapted from NPR.

File a Complaint with OSHA

We have been receiving a lot of calls about businesses not enforcing face coverings or other compliance concerns. The Malheur County Health Department can not take the lead on all enforcement and asks that you first file a complaint with OSHA. If you still see violations, call our office at 541-889-7279 after you have filed an OSHA complaint and seen an additional concern and we will follow up.

Visit the OSHA website to file a complaint. Towards the top of the page is a paragraph, “We recommend that employees first attempt to resolve safety and health issues by reporting them to their supervisors, managers, or to their employer’s safety and health committee,” followed by:

Complaint form  English   Spanish

You can also contact the OSHA Bend Field Office at 541-388-6066.

Oregon OSHA workplace guidance and resources for COVID-19 (en español).

Wear A Face Covering. Save Lives.

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Let’s show our neighbors and businesses that we care about them by following the prevention guidelines, including wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces. With more than 3,300 COVID-19 positive cases reported within 100 miles of Malheur County, it’s especially important for everyone who lives, works, worships, plays, and shops in our community to wear a face covering, wash hands, and keep 6′ distance from people you don’t live with. We know how to flatten the curve of this surge in cases. Help us! We’re in this together.

Face Coverings Required Statewide

Masks required statewide effective July first

Face coverings are required for indoor public spaces in every county effective July 1st. Children under 12 years of age, as well as people with a disability or a medical condition that prevent them from wearing a face covering, are not required to wear one.

En todo el estado cubrebocas requerido effectivo el 1 de Julio

Governor Kate Brown Extends Face Coverings Requirement Statewide

Face covering requirements apply to indoor public spaces, take effect on Wednesday, July 1.

Governor Kate Brown announced today that Oregonians statewide will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, beginning this Wednesday July 1. The guidance applies to businesses and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces. Face covering requirements are already mandated in eight counties.

“From the beginning of the reopening process, I have said that reopening comes with the risk of seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases beyond our health systems’ capacity to test, trace, and isolate them,” said Governor Kate Brown. “Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties. The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference.

“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks.

“The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.

“Face coverings that cover your nose and mouth play a critical role in reducing the spread of this disease because droplets from our breath can carry the virus to others without us realizing it. If we all wear face coverings, practice six feet of physical distancing in public, wash our hands regularly, and stay home when we are sick, then we can avoid the worst-case scenarios that are now playing out in other states.

“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing. If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.

“Please keep your Fourth of July celebrations small and local. We saw a lot of new COVID-19 cases following the Memorial Day holiday. Another spike in cases after the upcoming holiday weekend could put Oregon in a dangerous position.

“Oregonians have all made incredible sacrifices over the last several months that have saved thousands of lives. The actions we take now can protect our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and fellow Oregonians from this disease, and prevent the need for another statewide shutdown. We are truly all in this together.”

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will take the lead, along with other state and local agencies, in enforcing face covering requirements for all covered Oregon businesses.

OHA Guidance

We anticipate that the county-specific face covering guidance will be extended statewide, including for businesses. For the public, the guidance is copied below.

  • Customers and visitors of businesses are required to:
    • Wear a mask, face shield, or face covering when at a business unless the individual:
      • Is under 12 years of age.
      • Has a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe when wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.
      • Has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.
  • Customers and visitors of businesses between the ages of 0 and 12 years old:
    • Children under the age of two (2) are not required to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering.
    • It is strongly recommended that children between two (2) and 12 years of age, wear a mask, face shield, or face covering at all times in all indoor spaces open to the public, particularly in places where it is likely that physical distancing of at least six (6) feet from other individuals outside their household unit cannot be maintained, and where vulnerable people may go.
    • Because children between the ages of two (2) and 12 years of age can have challenges wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering properly (e.g., excessively touching the face covering, not changing the face covering if visibly soiled, risk of strangulation or suffocation, etc.) we urge that if masks, face shields or face coverings are worn by this age group, that they be worn with the assistance and close supervision of an adult. Masks, face shields, or face coverings should never be worn by children when sleeping.
  • Indoor spaces open to the public:
    • Individuals visiting indoor spaces open to the public are required to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering unless the individual:
      • Is under 12 years of age.
      • Has a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe when wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.
      • Has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering.