OHA expands community-based education, outreach campaign

Masks mean love.jpg

Oregon Health Authority has expanded its multilingual Safe + Strong education and outreach campaign with a new theme and materials to help communities find simple, culturally specific information on safely connecting with family and friends this winter. Press release here.

Led by the theme “Love Finds a Way,” new campaign materials and resources available in 12 languages provide fresh public health recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Oregonians continue to show their resilience through this pandemic by finding new ways to stay connected while physically apart,” said Oregon Public Health Director Rachael Banks. “Whether it is wearing a mask when around anyone you don’t live with — including close friends and relatives — or keeping our social groups small, love, and a good plan, will keep us strong.”

Ensenemos nuestro amor.jpg

Since launching in April with the support of Brink Communications, the campaign website has been a trusted place to get culturally relevant tools and information, as well as a hub for finding resources like food and rental assistance, unemployment benefits and health coverage. The campaign has partnered with more than 170 community-based organizations (CBOs) statewide to expand access to lifesaving information and support.

By working directly with community organizations representing groups most affected by health disparities, the Safe + Strong campaign will help communities continue to make safe choices, while recognizing people need simple plans to protect themselves and their families. The site’s new “Make a plan” page contains reminders and information on what activities are low, medium or high risk for spreading COVID-19.

“While hope is on its way with the arrival of vaccines, helping our communities understand and access vital information to continue to stay safe this winter is critical for everyone’s health and well-being,” Banks said. “We know how much people want to gather and spend time with their loved ones. Thankfully, there are safe ways for us to do so without spreading this deadly virus.”

OHA data show that 38% of COVID-19 cases have been linked to people who identify as Latino/a/x. And more than 50% of cases have been linked to people identifying as Black, Asian, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Pacific Islander, or Latino/a/x. The state’s history of racism and oppression, as well as inequitable access to medical services, have exacerbated the impacts of COVID-19 in many communities across the state.

The Safe + Strong campaign focuses on Oregonians who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The expanded effort will use strategically targeted digital, radio, broadcast, print and other out-of-home advertisements to help create awareness. Online advertisements in 12 languages — English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Hmong, Somali, Chuukese, and Marshallese — will connect Oregonians directly to resources and information on the website.

The campaign is anchored with two new television spots, available in English and Spanish:

Vaccination of Malheur County Health Care Workers Continues

In coming weeks, most of Malheur County’s health care workers, as well as long-term care facility employees and residents, will have had an opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As more vaccine becomes available, health care workers will be followed by our community’s other essential workers and people age 75 and older. The general population is expected to have access to the vaccine sometime in spring 2021.

The Malheur County Health Department is working with community partners to ensure that everyone in our community who wants the vaccine will be able to get it. Distribution plans are under way, and we are confident that widespread vaccination will ultimately enable us to return to our normal way of life.

COVID-19 vaccines have been evaluated extensively in large-scale clinical trials that involved adults from a diverse and inclusive range of races, ethnicities and ages. The vaccines that are currently available have been found to be 95% effective after two doses, given about three to four weeks apart.

As we prepare to open vaccination PODS in Malheur County, we are relying on the research and results from COVID-19 vaccine trials to provide answers to some commonly asked questions, which are addressed below by the Centers for Disease Control. We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19? It is strongly recommended that you do. The vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19. If you still get infected after you get vaccinated, the vaccine may prevent serious illness. By getting vaccinated, you can also help protect people around you.

Can the vaccine give me COVID-19? No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use or in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick.

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated? Yes. CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can catch it more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last.

Can my child get vaccinated for COVID-19? No. More studies need to be conducted before COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for children aged 16 and younger.

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition? Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.

Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine? No. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months.

Why do I need two COVID-19 shots? Currently authorized vaccines, and most vaccines under development, require two doses of vaccine. The first shot helps the immune system recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune response. You need both to get the best protection.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick? There may be side effects, but they should go away within a few days. Possible side effects include a sore arm, headache, fever, or body aches. This does not mean you have COVID-19. Side effects are signs that the vaccine is working to build immunity. If they don’t go away in a week, or you have more serious symptoms, call your doctor.

Are there long-term side effects from COVID-19 vaccine? Because all COVID-19 vaccines are new, it will take more time and more people getting vaccinated to learn about very rare or possible long-term side effects. The good news is, at least 8 weeks’ worth of safety data were gathered in the clinical trials for all the authorized vaccines, and it’s unusual for vaccine side effects to appear more than 8 weeks after vaccination.

How do I know if COVID-19 vaccine is safe? All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people to make sure they meet safety standards and protect adults of different ages, races, and ethnicities. There were no serious safety concerns. CDC and the FDA will keep monitoring the vaccines to look for safety issues after they are authorized and in use.

How do I report problems or bad reactions after getting a COVID-19 vaccine? All recipients who receive the vaccine are encouraged to enroll in v-safe. This is a smartphone tool you can use to tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you report serious side effects, someone from CDC will call to follow up. During your vaccination visit, you will be given instructions on how to enroll.

The first COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived in Oregon.

Oregon confirms first COVID vaccines have arrived
State kicks off massive immunization campaign as health facilities begin receiving new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

The first COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived in Oregon. Legacy Health is the first registered COVID-19 vaccine provider in the state to receive the vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. The health system’s Holladay Park site in Portland and Meridian Park site in Tualatin each took delivery of one package of 975 doses today at around 7 a.m.

Additional doses are expected at three other locations in Oregon this week: Oregon Health & Science University Pharmacy, Kaiser Permanente’s Airport Way Center in Portland, and St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario also are each expected to receive 975-dose packages of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The remaining 30,225 Pfizer vaccine doses from this week’s allocation of 35,100 dose for Oregon will arrive at hospitals throughout the rest of the week, with 10,725 doses going to skilled nursing facilities for vaccinations that start next week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Oregon to choose the initial sites as a way to test the system that providers around the state are using to order the vaccine.

The shipments follow a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision on Friday to issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was found in Phase 3 clinical trials to be 95% effective and, in most people, cause only mild to moderate, short-lived side effects.

“In recent weeks, as COVID-19 vaccines reached the final stages of approval, I have said time and again that hope is on the way. Today, I can tell you that help is here,” said Governor Kate Brown. “The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Oregon, the first of many that will be distributed across the state. Starting with the frontline health care workers who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the long-term care facility residents who are among the most vulnerable, each day, more and more Oregonians will be vaccinated against this disease.

“Throughout the process, we will work to ensure that the Oregonians that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including those from Black, Indigenous, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities, have equitable access to vaccination. We are in the middle of some of the hardest days of this pandemic. Our hospitals are stretched to capacity, and too many families are losing loved ones just as we enter the holiday season. So many Oregonians have suffered and sacrificed in the last 10 months.

“But starting this week, and each week following — as vaccines become more widely available — we will begin gaining ground again in our fight against this disease.”

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen emphasized that vaccinations against COVID-19 are still months away for most Oregonians, so vigilance in practicing basic prevention measures — wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding gatherings, staying home if sick — must continue.

“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but we will be in this tunnel for several months,” he said. “We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing to help our friends, neighbors and ourselves stay safe.”

Kathryn Correia, chief executive officer of Legacy Health, said, “The safe and equitable distribution and administration of vaccines will take all of us in the health care community working together with public health officials to accomplish the task before us. On behalf of our entire Legacy Health team, we pledge our continued partnership and commitment to this effort.”

Most Oregon hospitals and health systems that registered as vaccine provider sites are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks. Follow-up shipments are anticipated on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29. In addition, a vaccine manufactured by Moderna Inc., which has not yet received FDA emergency use authorization, also are scheduled for delivery in Oregon on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.

In all, public health officials anticipate there will be enough of the two vaccines to provide first doses to about 100,000 people, with second doses following in January.

Becky Hultberg, president and chief executive officer of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), called the arrival of the first doses “fantastic news.”

“As for who receives these first doses,” she said, “we strongly support putting our frontline health care workers at the top of the list. We need to take care of them, so they can take care of us. It’s what they always do, putting the patient first.”

Health officials say that outlook will be borne out in the first phase of the statewide vaccination effort, with health care workers, particularly those at highest risk of direct exposure to COVID-19 in their work — hospital employees, emergency medical services personnel, as well as long-term care facility employees and residents — getting the first doses. Essential workers, followed by people with underlying health conditions and those older than 65 are next in line as they are identified by OHA’s equity-focused Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Priority groups in Phase 2 will be determined at a later time. The general population isn’t expected to be eligible for vaccination until sometime in spring 2021.

The state vaccination distribution plan rollout is happening in tandem with a federal effort that is partnering with pharmacy companies CVS, Walgreens and Consonus Healthcare to offer on-site, no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to more than 680 long-term care facilities in Oregon. The first three weeks of the operation, which starts Dec. 21, will see 22,425 vaccine doses going to skilled nursing facilities and 80,000 doses headed to assisted living facilities.

Stay informed about COVID-19:

Malheur County COVID-19 update: 41 deaths and 2,380 cases

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is saddened to announce three new deaths, bringing the total to 41 Malheur County residents who have lost their lives with COVID-19. Our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost a loved one.

Two deaths were in females in their 90s and one death was in a male in his 70s. Case investigators are diligently working on every case as they have dedicated their efforts to investigating 2,380 cases over the last eight months.

MCHD urges everyone to take precautions seriously to protect the spread of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable who are more likely to die. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the United States are rising, including Idaho and Oregon communities near us. Idaho announced 96,503 cases today and Oregon announced 68,503 cases today. The CDC reports the Idaho rate of cases at a rate of 78.22 cases per 100,000 people and the Oregon rate at 29.87 cases per 100,000 people. Everyone in Malheur County needs to be especially cautious due to the increasing risks around us.

Especially during the holidays, if you choose to have small gatherings of up to six people between two households, please take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart, get tested, and wash your hands often. The more steps you take, the more you and the ones you love are protected against COVID-19.

Do you need health insurance?

Oregon Health Authority : Contact Us : Oregon Health Plan : State of Oregon

Many Oregonians who are uninsured may qualify for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) or for help paying for coverage through the Marketplace. Oregon’s Marketplace open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 and is the only time of year many people can buy private health insurance.

In 2020, more than seven in 10 Oregonians who chose plans through HealthCare.gov got financial help for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Due to job losses during the pandemic, we estimate thousands of Oregonians may be newly eligible for help paying for health insurance. Want help? Experts are available to offer free assistance remotely and in person by appointment following COVID-19 safety protocols. Find local help on OregonHealthCare.gov.

Remember, you must apply and enroll by Dec. 15 to get coverage for 2021 through the Marketplace. You can apply for the Oregon Health Plan at OHP.Oregon.gov at any time. To find out what coverage and savings are available to you, visit OregonHealthCare.gov/WindowShop.

More on Two-Week Statewide Freeze

From November 18 to December 2, Oregon will be in a statewide Two-Week Freeze to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Oregon. These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care.

Statewide Two-Week Freeze to Stop Rapid Spread of COVID-19

New measures take effect Wednesday, Nov. 18, in all Oregon counties 

Governor Kate Brown today announced a statewide Two-Week Freeze, implementing new measures to limit gatherings and stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Oregon. The Two-Week Freeze measures will be in effect from Nov. 18 through Dec. 2, statewide. These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care.

“Since I announced a Two-Week Pause one week ago, we are seeing an alarming spike in both cases and hospitalizations,” said Governor Brown. “The virus is spreading in the community and, every day, it is infecting more and more Oregonians. This situation is dangerous and our hospitals have been sounding the alarms. If we want to give Oregon a fighting chance, we must take further measures to flatten the curve and save lives. I know this is hard, and we are weary. But, we are trying to stop this ferocious virus from quickly spreading far and wide. And in Oregon, we actually can do this.

“Given the data and modeling we are seeing, my public health experts tell me that some counties will need longer to flatten the curve. So I want to be very clear that there are some COVID-19 hotspot counties that will likely need to stay in the Freeze for much longer than two weeks. Multnomah County, for example, will be in this Freeze for at least four weeks. Our actions right now, no matter where in the state you live, are critical.”

The Two-Week Freeze measures include:

  • Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households.
  • Limiting faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
  • Limiting eating and drinking establishments to take-out and delivery only.
  • Closing gyms and fitness organizations.
  • Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts.
  • Closing zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools.
  • Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
  • Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
  • Closing venues (that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events).
  • Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public.
  • Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities (outdoor visitation permitted for supporting quality of life).

The Two-Week Freeze does not apply to or change current health and safety protocols for personal services (such as barber shops, hair salons, and non-medical massage therapy), congregate homeless sheltering, outdoor recreation and sports, youth programs, childcare, K-12 schools, K-12 sports currently allowed, current Division 1 and professional athletics exemptions, and higher education — all of which can continue operating under previous guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority.

For all other permitted activities listed above, the Oregon Health Authority will be issuing sector-specific guidance within the next week. Sectors without specific prohibitions or guidance must operate under this general employer guidance.

Governor Brown’s full remarks are available here. Press release here.

A link to Governor Brown’s press conference is available here.

Free COVID-19 Testing for All: Tuesday, Nov 17

We need more COVID-19 testing to improve the test positivity rate and active infections. By getting tested, you help us 1) Safely reopen schools for kids, 2) Keep businesses open, and 3) Save lives.

Get tested! Free, easy, no-pain COVID-19 testing is available at the Malheur County Fairgrounds (795 NW 9th St, Ontario, OR 97914) on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No symptoms required. No insurance needed. No residency requirements.

Register HERE.

Please share the Facebook event also.

Happy Veterans Day!

Saint John Bosco Catholic Church – Veterans Day 2017 – Thank-you to all of  our Veterans.

Veterans, we are not only thankful to you, but also motivated by you. You have shown us how to be brave and honest. We can learn to sacrifice for our community and country during difficult times through your example. Thank you, Veterans!

Many Veterans are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease. Please wear your mask, keep your distance, avoid large gatherings, and get tested to protect our Veterans and those who are most vulnerable. We should care for them as they care for us.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – JFK

Stop the spread: Considerations for gatherings

illustration of a person and child wearing masks standing six feet apart from a young woman wearing a mask

Malheur County Health Department has linked many COVID-19 cases recently to social gatherings. Malheur County continues to hold the state’s worst case rate and test positivity and tomorrow will be put on Pause. With the COVID-19 situation getting worse in our county and in surrounding counties in both Idaho and Oregon, we need the public to help stop the spread in the following ways as recommended by the CDC. This guidance is relevant and applicable to every state in the USA.

illustration of people wearing masks and celebrating by getting food from a buffet

Assess the risks

  • In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions.
  • Keep these items on hand when venturing out: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Should you go out? Learn what factors to consider before you head out.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • If you are contacted by contact tracers, follow their instructions to protect you, your family, and your community. Stay home and away from others during quarantine, get tested, and monitor your health.
illustration of a woman wearing a mask arriving for a gathering

Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk. Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (number of attendees and other factors) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection, as outlined in the Considerations for Events and Gatherings.

There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk:

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering.
  • Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear maskswash hands, and follow health rules.
    • During the Pause, Malheur County residents must limit gatherings to only household members or no more than 6 people total. Outside of the Pause, social get-togethers are limited to 10 people. Masks are required.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearinghandwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearingsocial distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
illustration of friends gathering outdoors wearing masks and six feet apart

The following people should not attend in-person gatherings

People at increased risk for severe illness
If you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.

illustration of a young family enjoying a virtual meal with an older couple

More CDC recommendations for holiday gatherings here.