Child Abuse Prevention is Everyone’s Duty

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. This is even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic, when traditional support systems for families are unavailable or altered. High-stress home environments can increase the likelihood of domestic violence and abuse that children either experience or observe. As children continue to spend more time at home, they may experience abuse.

For many kids, home is not a safe place, and those enduring abuse or neglect are possibly going unnoticed as schools are closed and we are all isolating from one another. According to, across the states, child abuse and neglect reports were down 50%. Part of that is due to the fact that the crucial part of reporting, the eyes and ears that usually recognize problems, are not with the children that are at risk.

We are asking everyone to play a part in keeping children healthy and safe. Please call and reach out to families you know to check in. Report suspected abuse, share crisis hotlines with families, and keep your eyes open. To report suspected abuse or neglect of a child or adult, call 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).

Please refer to these resources from Prevent Child Abuse America and share with families and friends:

Call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 to find out more about our family support programs, including nurse visiting done by phone during the COVID-19 crisis. We are here to help.

Watch the video at the top of this post with Prevent Child Abuse America’s national director delivering the important message that “Everyone – Yes, Even you – Can Make #GreatChildhoods Happen!”

COVID-19 Guidance for Malheur County Residents

Image from Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Map 4/3/2020

At the Malheur County Health Department, we know we are asking a lot of everyone in order to protect our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to need your help now, before we experience a surge of positive cases, when your actions will make the greatest impact on how the virus spreads, our health care system’s ability to care for those critically ill, and the recovery of the many sectors impacted by the pandemic. Please follow and share the following recommendations. We will continue to work with our partners and adjust our strategies as needed.

Symptoms and Testing

  • Testing capacity is slowly increasing, but still limited. If you have symptoms that are mild enough you would not typically seek medical treatment, stay home, rest, and monitor your symptoms. Even if you had contact with someone who is also sick or a has confirmed case of COVID-19, if you have mild symptoms, the best thing you can do is stay home, isolate, and recover.
  • People who need non-emergency medical care should call their health care provider before going to a clinic. There are COVID-19 test kits in our community, but testing is only available to those who meet the criteria, which includes symptoms of a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a cough, or shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, loss of taste and smell, and severe fatigue. At this time, without a fever and respiratory symptoms, most people would not qualify for a test. If you need care, call your health care provider and discuss your concerns. They will advise you on how to be tested, if necessary.
  • If you or someone near you needs emergency care, call 911. Emergency warning signs include: difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to rouse, or blueish lips or face. Please tell the 911 dispatch about any known exposure to someone with COVID-19, if you are waiting on test results, or travel to any high-affected areas.

Social Distancing

  • Google recently created COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to provide insight into movement trend changes from baseline, which is especially helpful to see how the Stay Home, Save Lives Order is being followed. From the April 1, 2020 updated reports:
    • Oregon averaged a 51% reduction in retail/recreation, a 25% reduction in grocery/pharmacy, and a 38% reduction in workplace.
    • Malheur County averages were much less with only 33% reduction in retail/recreation, 15% reduction in grocery/pharmacy, and a 23% reduction in workplace.
  • We know the Stay Home, Save Lives Order has caused hardships to many individuals, businesses, and families. Most of the nation is under similar orders in response to this pandemic because it is what public health experts know is our best strategy to slow the spread of the virus. The Oregon order is like other states’ “Shelter in Place” orders that mandate mitigation measures like stopping mass gatherings, closure of educational institutions, isolation of infected persons, and physical distancing of at least six-feet between people outside of your home.
  • Even if every American follows similar mitigation measures across the U.S., we anticipate a devastating 100,000-250,000 deaths. The number of people in our local community who will be infected and the number of people who will die is largely dependent on how well each of us who live, work, and shop in Malheur County and surrounding areas follow the social distancing measures. Our top strategies go beyond the mandates with public health recommendations for every individual and family:
    • Know how COVID-19 spreads. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus because the virus mainly spreads from person to person. Some people may spread the virus without showing symptoms, so everyone should act as if they are possibly infected.
    • Limit close contact, indoors and outdoors, to family members only. That means no dinner parties, no play dates, no birthday parties with a few friends. Find ways to connect by phone, video, or mail. Write letters. Connect and still have fun, just not in person.
    • Wash your hands often. If you do have to leave home, take hand sanitizer with you and clean your hands before and after you are in a public place. Avoid touching your face.
    • Avoid close contact at all times by maintaining a physical distance of six-feet between you and other people outside of your home. All employees and customers must also follow the six-foot rule in businesses that are still open. Health care providers, law enforcement, and other essential service providers have additional measures to take to ensure safety when they can not keep physical distance.
    • Some of the greatest concerns we’ve heard are from reports of close contact in grocery stores, cannabis dispensaries, dollar stores, convenience stores, and construction sites. ​All employers in Oregon are required by the Oregon Safe Employment Act (OSEA) to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Visit for more information.
    • Stay home except for essential business, such as going to the pharmacy or getting groceries. Our additional recommendations for how to do this safely are:
      • Keep a 30-day supply of prescriptions. Ask if your pharmacy can mail medication or pick up through a drive-through.
      • Don’t go to the grocery store more than once a week. Call the store ahead of time to ask about special shopping hours or curb-side pick-up options. Shop for high-risk people so they don’t need to leave home. Coordinate as a family to have one person do all the shopping. Wash reusable bags every trip.
      • If possible, do not to take other people with you and arrange for child care, if needed.
      • When you return home from being in public, wash your hands and disinfect your car, keys, credit cards, phone, doorknobs, counter tops and other surfaces that may have been contaminated. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home daily, even when you stay home.
    • Create a Family COVID-19 Plan. Every family should prepare for the outbreak with a detailed plan communicated to everyone included. Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications. Talk with your neighbors, create an emergency contact list, and identify local aid organizations.

If You Are Sick

  • Put your Family COVID-19 Plan into action. Identify a “sick room” to isolate in at home.
  • Stay home completely, except if you need medical care.
  • Stay home from work, even if you are part of an essential business. Notify your workplace.
  • Isolate as much as possible from the people you live with. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible. Avoid sharing personal items. Clean sick room and bathroom daily.
  • Notify those you’ve had close contact with that they should monitor symptoms (including taking their temperature) for the next 14 days and isolate if symptoms develop.
  • Continue practicing everyday prevention actions. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol.
  • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. Let others know how you are doing and ask for help if needed.
  • Stay home for a full 72 hours after symptoms resolve. Some patients start to feel better and then suddenly take a turn for the worse, five to seven days into the illness. Be vigilant monitoring symptoms and don’t resume activity until symptoms have been gone for three full days or that it’s been a full seven days since the onset of symptoms, whichever is longer.
  • Self-care could include taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), using cold compresses, drinking warm beverages, staying hydrated, eat healthy foods, and resting as much as possible.


  • You should wear a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory diseases and are outside of your sick room at home. If you have to go to your health care provider, wear a mask.
  • New guidance from the CDC states, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity… even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
  • We do not recommend that people use surgical masks that are in short supply and needed for the health care system. It is recommended to wear a cloth face covering, such as a bandana or homemade mask if you leave your home and are around other people. Do not touch the mask when it is on your face and wash it after every single use.
  • If you have a supply of N95 respirators (the specialty mask that protects health care workers from exposure when caring for COVID-19 patients) or other personal protective equipment (PPE), please donate it to essential health care workers on the front lines who critically need it. Call Rich Harriman, Malheur County Emergency Manager, at 541-473-5120 to donate PPE.

What Else You Can Do

  • Stay healthy. Eat a good diet. Exercise. Go outside for a run or walk, as long as you maintain at least six feet distance from others. Get plenty of rest. Stay up to date on vaccines.
  • Quit smoking. Call the Oregon Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free counseling.
  • Reach out to local service organizations and charities and donate money or volunteer to support their work from home. Several local projects are listed at
  • Donate to food pantries and assistance sites. Visit to search locally.
  • Give blood through the American Red Cross. Several blood drives are planned in Ontario soon. Sign up HERE.
  • Take care of your mental health and help your family cope. Visit the CDC for tips and links to treatment providers.
  • Be ready to help one another. A strong sense of community will carry us through this difficult time.
  • Call the Health Department at 541-889-7279 if you have additional questions. 2-1-1 is also an excellent resource for information on COVID-19 and local resources. Call 211 or visit

Second Malheur Positive COVID-19 Case

Today, the Malheur County Health Department reported the second positive case of COVID-19. The person who has tested positive is female and between ages 10 and 19. She lives in Malheur County and is isolated at home. The case investigation is underway.

Our thoughts are with those who are sick and their families. It is important that everyone follows the social distancing measures that do work to reduce transmission. Current state estimates for the impact of the Stay Home, Save Lives order are that transmission has been reduced by 50-75%. If people don’t continue to follow the guidance, we will see a dramatic increase in cases. When more people are sick, more people will need critical care, which puts a great strain on our health care system.

“Most people will be sick for a few days and get well. Viruses have different symptoms for different people. Those who need to see a provider are those who have a severe cough, trouble breathing, or other severe symptoms,” Malheur County Health Department Medical Officer Dr. Morris Smith shared. “Those with less symptoms need to stay home to prevent spreading the virus. We’ve had other viruses, flu, and this is the time for allergies, too. If you’re not sure if you have a virus or not, still stay home and monitor your symptoms, especially fever.”

As more positive cases are reported, we will not report each case with press releases and will release all new information on our COVID-19 Cases page. The public are welcome to contact the Health Department directly at 541-889-7279 for updates, but please note that we can not share protected identifying information about cases. Anyone with questions about their own symptoms should call their health care provider directly.

Two New Payette County COVID-19 Positive Cases

Yesterday, April 1st, Southwest District Health (SWDH) reported two new COVID-19 positive cases in Payette County, Idaho, which shares a border with Malheur County. SWDH is not releasing press releases for additional cases beyond the first positive report in a county. We do not have additional information to share. The SWDH case investigation is underway. Malheur County Health Department Communicable Disease nurses will continue to work with SWDH to follow up on contact monitoring for residents of Malheur County, if needed. Follow SWDH on their website for more information.

SWDH serves six Idaho counties: Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette and Washington. The COVID-19 positive case count as of April 1, 2020 for SWDH is 77. Ada County is reporting 226 positive cases. Additional county counts can be found at

Any Positive Change: PRIME+ Peer Program Continues

Call 541-709-8539 for Peer Dispatch 7 days per week.

The Malheur County Health Department PRIME+ Peer Program connects people to care, resources and services before and after an overdose, infection or other health issue related to substance use.

Walk-Ins are still welcome for syringe exchange during business hours at our clinic: 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario.

Certified Recovery Mentors are available 7 days per week to help people who use drugs (or have a history of use) get Naloxone; connect with community resources; sign up for health insurance; get medical care, treatment and counseling; and get hepatitis C testing and treatment. SMART Recovery Meetings are no longer available in person during the Stay Home, Save Lives order, but are available on-line.

A lot of people are suffering right now and we want them to know that they are not alone. Our Peers have lived experience and want to help. Please refer those you know who need help for their substance use to call 541-709-8539.

Malheur County Announces First Positive Case of COVID-19

The Malheur County Health Department today announced Malheur County’s first laboratory-confirmed positive case of COVID-19. The person is a male Malheur County resident in his 20s and is not hospitalized. He is quarantined and recovering at home. Public health investigation is underway.

Malheur County is in close coordination with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Test results are now coming from multiple laboratories and are delivered electronically to providers, counties, and OHA throughout the day. As a result, some counties may release county data sooner than it is reported by the OHA.

“Our primary concern is the health and well-being of this person and the people close to him. Our thoughts are with them and we wish him a speedy recovery. We have excellent health care providers in Malheur County who are coordinating with our emergency preparedness team and doing all they can to care for their patients. I have confidence in the quality of care available, but it is important that all of us do our part to ensure that health care providers don’t have to care for more people than the system can handle at one time,” said Malheur County Health Department Director, Sarah Poe. “That means the goal is not to make sure that no one is infected with this virus, but that we prevent it from spreading too quickly. Without a vaccine and without specific treatment, our best bet as a community is to slow the transmission so those who have a severe case can get the care they need from our health system. As the state’s ability to test for COVID-19 increases, so will the number of positive cases. Testing has been limited and we can only test those who meet a high-criteria which is why we need everyone staying home to save lives.”

 For more information:

MCHD COVID-19 Update

The Malheur County Health Department is still open for limited services. Please be sure to call before coming in: 541-889-7279.

The Malheur County Courthouse in Vale is open by appointment only. Call the department needed and do your business by phone, email, or mail, if possible. You can find each department’s contact information HERE.

We have a new page, “COVID-19 Cases,” to report the current case count. We will update daily Monday-Friday until there is a positive case and then report on weekends additionally. Very briefly this morning the page listed an incorrect number and we apologize to anyone who accessed the page and saw an incorrect posting. We currently have 19 confirmed negative tests and 0 positive.

FEMA has started a Coronavirus Rumor Control page. One myth dispelled is that there would be a national lock down. We have heard local rumors that there will be a lock down between Oregon and Idaho and people will not be able to cross the border. That is NOT true. People are not being stopped driving and can cross the border from Idaho to Oregon and Oregon to Idaho. We do ask that people stay home and only travel for essential business and needs.

Questions? Call us at 541-889-7279 or email

Guidance Following Nearby COVID-19 Cases

Positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and are increasing across Idaho and Oregon. We should assume COVID-19 is in our community and follow the Stay Home, Save Lives order by Governor Kate Brown. More information can be found at We encourage our neighbors in Idaho to follow the same recommendations. The Malheur County Health Department has received several calls with questions about the positive COVID-19 case reported in Payette County yesterday. Case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released. We are working with the people at highest risk in Malheur County who are connected to the case and they are cooperating and quarantined. If you think you had direct or secondary exposure to a positive case, you do not need to call and likely do not need to be tested without symptoms. Testing capacity remains extremely limited nation-wide and the criteria for screening is high. This is why every person in Oregon is required to follow the Stay Home, Save Lives order, including significant social distancing, and should be practicing quarantine to the extent possible. Oregon is doing what research has proven works to flatten the curve of transmission. As part of social distancing, we encourage everyone to stay home, except travel for essential activities that cannot be conducted remotely. Social distancing measures reduce opportunities for person-to-person virus transmission and can help delay and slow the spread of the disease, as well as save lives. We appreciate help in this effort.

Many people are interested in testing for COVID-19 out of concern for themselves and their loved ones. Healthcare providers may decide to have you first tested for other illnesses, like the flu, based on your possible exposure history and any other symptoms you might have. Individuals who feel very ill should seek appropriate care. If it is an emergency, call 911. If it is not an emergency but you feel sick enough to need a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office. If you don’t have a doctor, call 211 for a list of clinics near you. If necessary, call your local urgent care center. It is crucial to call before you go. If you have flu-like symptoms or have reason to think you might have COVID-19, let your healthcare provider know when you call. This will help avoid exposing anyone else at the provider’s facility.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you continue to follow the existing guidelines to stay away from other people. If you get a fever, cough or trouble breathing, consult with your doctor or a clinic by phone only if you need care and cannot manage your symptoms at home. If someone in your home is sick, isolate them within your household as much as possible. Please keep them to their own bedroom (and own bathroom if possible), have dedicated dishes and utensils, and increase frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of areas where the symptomatic person has been. Of course, provide care and do your best to communicate while maintaining at least six-foot distance. We understand that not all these recommendations are possible when caring for children, which is why it is important that whole households quarantine when someone is sick.

We hope to be able to test more people soon once testing is more available, but until then, mild symptoms and possible or secondary exposure do not necessarily qualify you for a test. You can protect your family and your community by doing self-quarantine for 14 days if you think you have been exposed. It is not unreasonable to recognize that each of us should be practicing quarantine to the extent possible because we have community-spread in surrounding counties. Quarantine means you stay away from other people for a time when you may become sick with an infection, even if you have no symptoms. Quarantine includes doing the following:

  • Checking one’s temperature twice a day.
  • Avoiding places where many people gather, including stores, workplaces, and schools.
  • Staying off transportation like planes, trains, and buses.
  • Calling your healthcare provider if you have fever, cough, or trouble breathing and tell them about your symptoms and possible exposure.

​Following the social distance guidelines of six-feet between people is important to prevent the transmission of the virus. People could be infected and not show any symptoms, so it is critical that we all follow the six-foot rule at all times possible. Think of the size of an adult bike and visualize that distance between you and other people. Keep this distance from others if you go to or work in an essential business, if ever in line, when in small groups, and even at home when possible. ​​It may sound simple, but soap and water, used properly, are extremely effective and may be the best tool we have to control COVID-19.​

Business Social Distancing Essential to Slow COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated 3/23/20 to reflect updated cases and state guidance that the distance maintained should be at least SIX feet between people.

On March 22nd, the Oregon Health Authority announced 24 new COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing the state total to 161, including a case in Grant County, bordering part of Malheur County. Five lives have been lost to COVID-19 in Oregon. Idaho reported a total of 47 cases on March 22nd, including a case in Canyon County, less than 30 miles from Ontario. With an increasing number of positive cases affecting every state in the union, the likelihood of an outbreak across Malheur County increases each day.

Malheur County is stepping up measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 with a Multi-Agency Coordination System and Incident Command, as the numbers of deaths and infections continue to grow in the state. The Malheur County Health Department has a response team dedicated to COVID-19 and is providing health resources, guidance, and technical assistance to partners while public health staff continue to provide essential services, adapting to social distancing guidelines.

All Oregon businesses and organizations have been asked to modify their practices to reduce gatherings and consider alternate approaches to work schedules and duties to reduce contact. Businesses are urged to assess their practices, implement strong social distancing measures, and close their doors temporarily if they cannot put the new guidance in place.

We remind all businesses to do the following:

  • Follow all Executive Orders of the Governor, including prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink
  • Implement social distancing protocols of at least six feet between customers ordering, waiting, or in line.
  • Follow the CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations
  • Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough hand washing.
  • Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home.
  • Create and follow an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan. For assistance, review the CDC Guidance for Businesses.

Our highest priority is the health and safety of our community. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, to protect Malheur County residents who are at highest risk for contracting the disease, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity, it is necessary for every single person to follow social distancing and community mitigation measures.

For more information on COVID-19:

Malheur County Court Signs Emergency Declaration

This morning, County Commissioners Larry Wilson, Don Hodge, and Judge Dan Joyce signed a Declaration of Emergency for Malheur County in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We need to be as prepared as possible to help keep our community safe,” said Judge Dan Joyce. “This emergency declaration will help us to best serve our residents. We appreciate the public working with us to protect public health and minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

The declaration specifically authorizes the County to:

  • Seek state and federal assistance and potential reimbursement for local funds spent on COVID-19 response;
  • Use streamlined processes for purchasing goods and services as allowed under Oregon law during emergency situations; and
  • Follow emergency plans and procedures as may be needed to protect the public health.

In addition, the County’s emergency operations center (EOC) has been partially activated to assist the Health Department with multi-agency coordination, public information and community outreach. The activation also provides a venue for mobilizing resources and developing plans across multiple Malheur County departments.

“The Emergency Declaration and EOC will help us support County staff, first responders, and healthcare partners so we can quickly respond and utilize all available resources to best protect the health of our community,” said Malheur County Emergency Manager Rich Harriman.

Malheur County employees will remain on the job and working to fulfill the obligations of the County. All departments are implementing recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority, such as increased cleaning, social distancing, and teleconferencing where possible. Sick employees have been asked to stay home.

Members of the public who need to access County offices are encouraged to conduct as much business as possible online, by phone, or by mail. Appointments can be made for necessary and time-sensitive business that cannot be handled over the phone, internet or through the mail. Members of the public are asked to please call the respective office first so that staff can provide assistance over the phone and online and to request an appointment if necessary. Measures will be taken to enhance social distancing and minimize the number of visitors in our offices at one time. Public appointments and screening procedures are subject to change due to the rapidly-changing nature of the COVID-19 outbreak. Updated information particular to each office can be found on the County website at

“The Malheur County Court is committed to making every effort to stop and prevent the spread of the virus to our citizens,” said Commissioner Don Hodge. “We encourage everyone to limit their contacts in the community in the days ahead and conduct as much business as possible online, by phone, or through the mail.”

There are 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malheur County at this time. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management has a visual dashboard for the COVID-19 situation across the state HERE.

The Malheur County Health Department is working closely with the Oregon Health Authority, local emergency management, Malheur County Jail, Environmental Health, and medical providers to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find up to date numbers on cases of COVID-19 in Oregon by calling 211 or visiting