New Information: Cloth Face Coverings (Homemade Masks)

We recommend wearing a face covering when you are interacting with others who are not members of your household in public and private spaces. Face coverings are an additional tool that individuals should use to help slow the spread of COVID-19 but does not replace social or physical distancing requirements. Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures.

The Oregon Health Authority released “Oregon Guidance on Use of Homemade Masks or Face Coverings by the Public to Prevent Spread of COVID-19” over the weekend, emphasizing that the best way to prevent transmission of the virus still depends on physical distancing, frequently washing hands and surfaces, and staying home when you are sick. The new guidance is in response to growing evidence from the CDC that 1 in 4 people who are infected may not have symptoms. Homemade masks limit the spread of COVID-19 by containing respiratory droplets that may contain the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.

The public can safely use cloth face coverings when you need to leave your home for short periods of time to obtain essential goods or services. Use a clean face covering ideally each time you leave home. By implementing safe, accurate use of these homemade cloth masks, everyone could have a higher degree of protection from this virus. Individuals can be contagious before the onset of symptoms. If you have covered your nose and mouth, it can limit the spread of COVID-19. Remember, “my mask helps protects you, your mask helps protects me.”

Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions. If you plan to use a face covering, it is important to keep your nose and mouth covered. Lowering the covering from your nose and mouth while talking defeats the purpose of wearing the face covering since you can spread virus while you talk.

New CDC information can be found HERE, including several instructions on how to make a cloth face covering.

The CDC reports that your cloth face covering should:

  • Reach above the nose, below the chin, and completely cover the mouth and nostrils
  • Fit snugly against the sides of the face
  • Be made of multiple layers of fabric that you can still breathe through
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damaging the material or shape
  • Do not buy surgical masks to use as a face covering. Those are intended for healthcare workers and first responders.

Masks are only effective if you wear them properly. The World Health Organization shares how:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before touching or putting on the mask.
  • Make sure your entire nose and mouth are covered when you put it on.
  • Avoid touching the mask while you’re out — this can contaminate it.
  • Do not take the mask off while you’re in public.
  • To take it off once you return, untie it from the back or remove the elastic from behind the ears — don’t touch the front of it.
  • You should immediately wash the mask after returning so it doesn’t contaminate your belongings.
  • Wash your hands immediately after you’ve taken it off, and again after you’ve washed the mask.

Read more information from NPR on “Is A Homemade Mask Effective? And What’s The Best Way To Wear One?

If you know a quilter, reach out by phone for tips. Quilting fabric and other tightly woven fabrics make great face coverings. Cotton blends, flannel, and high thread count sheets also make good options. Hold a material up to the light and if light doesn’t pass through it, it is likely a good option. You want a denser material, but something that you can still breathe comfortably with. T-shirts, bananas, and any layered fabric is still better than nothing.

If you would like to donate cloth face coverings to those in need, please contact us at 541-889-7279.

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

You can help! Donate Blood.

The American Red Cross has a severe shortage of blood and our health care providers need your help! If you are healthy and not at high risk for COVID-19, please consider signing up for one of the upcoming blood drives in Ontario, Oregon. Learn more about eligibility and safety protocols.

Sign up on the Red Cross website:

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.​

Southwest District Health Confirms Positive COVID-19 Case in Payette County

The Malheur County Health Department can confirm that an Ontario, Oregon business has reported an employee received a laboratory confirmed positive test for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The person who tested positive is a resident of Payette County, Southwest District Health has confirmed. The person is a female in her 20s. The individual in this case experienced mild symptoms and recovered at home.  The point of transmission is under investigation by both Southwest District Health and the Malheur County Health Department. Additional case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released.  

As of today at 3:30 p.m., there were 18 negative and 0 positive COVID-19 laboratory confirmed tests reported in Malheur County. We will continue to report daily on additional test results.

Call 211 or the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 during business hours with questions. Call your health care provider if you experience symptoms and need care.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, it is essential to self-isolate when you are sick, even at home, stay at least six feet away from other people, and follow Stay Home, Save Lives guidelines: Additional information on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 can be found at: For more Oregon specific information on COVID-19, visit

Call for COVID-19 Info

The Malheur County Health Department has designated staff assigned to answering questions about COVID-19. Call 541-889-7279 Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, our Peer Dispatch Line is still available 7 days a week during this crisis. Call 541-709-8539 for confidential support and resources.

Please note that we can not diagnose or provide medical advice over the phone and ask that everyone call their primary care provider if they are sick, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or need care. We can give referrals to providers if you do not have a primary care home and have OHP Application Assisters if you do not have health insurance.

Besides calling the Health Department, calling 211 is an excellent option and has additional hours. 211 is the go-to public phone number to get information about Novel Coronavirus. This program is a partnership with Oregon Health Authority. Also visit the 211 website at

211info Community Information Specialists answer informational COVID-19 questions about the following:

  • Symptoms
  • Prevention
  • Transmission
  • Treatment
  • Travel health
  • Animals/pets
  • Persons under investigation and/or monitoring

Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest updates on Novel Coronavirus across the United States and globally.

To speak with a 211 Community Information Specialist about Novel Coronavirus:

CALL 211 or 1-866-698-6155
TEXT your zip code to 898211 (TXT211)
HOURS 7 days per week, 8am-11pm  

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: