Reopening Guidance — Specific Counties on Pause

Today, Governor Brown announced Malheur County is one of the counties “on pause” with the following guidance released by the Oregon Health Authority.

Effective Dates: November 11, 2020 – November 25, 2020

Applicability: This guidance applies to indoor social get-togethers and indoors spaces at the following settings, businesses, or locations to the extent they are permitted in Phase One or Phase Two, in Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla counties:

  • Aquariums
  • Bowling alleys
  • Fitness-related facilities
  • Indoor entertainment facilities
  • Indoor markets
  • Facilities where K-12 school sports are practiced or played
  • Facilities where recreational sports are practiced or played
  • Licensed swimming pools, licensed spa pools and sports courts
  • Museums
  • Restaurants/Bars/Breweries/Brewpubs/Wineries/Tasting Rooms/Distilleries
  • Skating rinks
  • Venues
Indoor social get-togethers
  • The maximum capacity for an indoor social get-together in Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla counties is 6 people indoors.
Persons in charge of the settings, businesses or locations listed above in Jackson, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Umatilla counties are required to:
  • Limit the capacity to a maximum of 50 people indoor, including staff, or the number of people based on a determination of capacity (square footage/occupancy), whichever is less. Capacity must be determined by using 35 square feet per person of usable space.
    • This capacity limit requirement does not apply to or change existing capacity limits for faith-based gatherings in Phase Two counties.
  • Limit parties to 6 people or fewer.
  • Prohibit the combining of different parties or individual guests that are not part of a party at shared seating situations. People in the same party seated at the same table do not have to be six (6) feet apart.
  • Follow the applicable OHA sector guidance for all other requirements.

This guidance supersedes any conflicting, less stringent guidance that is applicable to a particular sector, business or organization for the time that it is in effect.

Authority: Executive Order No. 20-27, paragraphs 9, 21, 24, and 26, ORS 431A.010, ORS 433.441, ORS 433.443.

Find a COVID-19 Testing Site

Everyone who has any symptoms of COVID-19 should get a test. Anyone who has spent time with a person who has COVID-19 should also get a test, even if they don’t show symptoms. Contact any testing site first to make sure testing is still occurring and if you meet their criteria.

If you have flu-like symptoms or have reason to think you might have COVID-19, let your healthcare provider know before you visit. This will help avoid exposing anyone else at the provider’s facility.

To find a testing site, use the COVID-19 Testing in Oregon Map or call 211.

Also, multiple testing sites are available in Idaho. More information about Saint Alphonsus testing here. More information about St. Luke’s testing here.

Many healthcare providers have NEW RAPID COVID-19 TESTS AVAILABLE. These tests will help make sure people who have COVID-19 can get the care and support they need. More testing will also help contact tracers reach out to people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, so they can stay home and keep their family and community safe.

The rapid tests are fast and almost always correct at showing if you have COVID-19 (your doctor may call this a “positive test”). However, it is common for the tests to miss COVID-19 (your doctor may call this a “false negative”) — and many people who get negative test results actually do have COVID-19. If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, the best and safest thing to do is stay home for 14 days, or quarantine. If you need support while you are staying home, resources are available through the Quarantine Fund and the COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program.

Testing is only one important way to stop the spread of COVID. It is still important for everyone to:

  • wear masks
  • avoid large groups
  • stay at least 6 feet apart, and spend time outside rather than
  • indoors with people outside your immediate family
    wash your hands often.

These are the best ways for us to keep ourselves and the ones we love safe. To find a testing site, click here or call 211.

Malheur County COVID-19 Data Update

Yesterday, Malheur County surpassed 2,000 COVID-19 cases. Our thoughts are with those who are sick, those who are caring for are ill, and those who have lost someone during this pandemic.

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) strives to share as much COVID-19 case information as possible on the COVID-19 Cases page of our website and the COVID-19 Resources page for links to additional data sources.

The data table shown above shows the data from the week of the first COVID-19 case in Malheur County through the end of October. A few notable metrics:

  • The “New Total” under the “Weekly” column shows the number of tests that are reported for any Malheur County residents. With a decreasing number of tests being done, the percentage of those tests that are positive is likely to be higher.
  • The “Weekly Positivity Rate” is more important to our current testing needs than the “Cumulative Positive Rate,” because 6.5% of the population of Malheur County has already tested positive and with more limited testing earlier in the pandemic, our rate over time is likely higher than what we could achieve currently with more tests available for more people. Also, the state is now counting new negative or positive tests if the previous test was more than 90 days ago. This should significantly help our positivity rate if more people are tested repeatedly.
  • To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we need to know who is infected and isolate them and quarantine their contacts. This can not be done without testing. While increased testing may increase case numbers in the short term, it does reduce the spread of the virus when people know they are infected or exposed and follow guidance.
  • To help reduce the positive rate, more people need to be tested.

With so much data to evaluate, it’s important to keep in mind why the data is important. We need the public to be informed and know the current risk of COVID-19 around them to keep themselves and others safe. Everyone in Malheur County should follow these simple steps can save lives by to slowing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Follow the statewide requirement to wear a face covering when in indoor public spaces and outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
  • Limit social gatherings to groups of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.
  • Wash your hands often with running water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes using your sleeve or a tissue, not your bare hand.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home and away from the rest of your household if you’re feeling sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Quarantine according to public health direction if you are in close contact with a known case.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched surfaces at home and at work, including your mobile devices.

MCHD officials also ask that the public stay informed and educated through trustworthy sources of information, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Safe + Strong Oregon

Nov 4 & 18: WIC Walk-In Wellness Days

Please share! Great opportunity for WIC participants and any Oregon residents who are pregnant or have a child under age 5.

Join us at the Malheur County Health Department for a walk-in day to get you and your child/children up to date on their wellness screenings. We are offering free weight and height measurements, iron checks, flu shots, immunizations and more.

Please wear a mask, limit number of family members as possible and do not attend if you are sick. Interested in the WIC program? Call us at (541) 889-7279 to schedule your WIC appointment!

More information on WIC here.

New policy for indoor visits at long-term care facilities will not apply to Malheur yet

Long-term care facilities in Oregon must begin allowing limited indoor visitation beginning Monday, November 2, 2020 unless there are documented health or safety concerns tied to coronavirus spread. Read the new policy here. Because Malheur County has COVID-19 positivity rates over 10%, “visitation may only include compassionate care situations.” If the positivity rate dropped below 10%, the new policy would apply.

The Oregon Department of Human Services announced the new policy to help ensure greater access to nursing, assisted living and other care facilities. The change comes after months of visitation restrictions meant to slow spread among vulnerable residents left some residents and families feeling isolated from loved ones.

“The indoor visitation policy has many layers to it that strike a balance between safety and the essential need for families and friends to connect,” Mike McCormick, interim director of the state division overseeing care facilities, said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor outbreaks closely and will modify the policy if that is warranted.”

Oregon began restricting access to care facilities in March, offering visits in only limited circumstances, before officials in July allowed outdoor visitation.

The new policy requires care facilities to allow two guests to visit a resident indoors at the same time. Visitors should be screened with a temperature check or detailed questions about exposure, and they are supposed to wear face masks during the visit, wash hands and practice physical distancing. But visitor access doesn’t apply if there are documented concerns at a facility or within the broader community. Facilities with an active outbreak or testing for an outbreak cannot welcome visitors indoors, for example. The policy also prohibits indoor visits in counties with test positivity rates above 10%, based on federal data.

In Oregon, only Malheur County exceeds that threshold using federal data.

Counties with high positivity rates must still allow “compassionate care” visits, which could include end-of-life situations or for residents who need emotional support.

  • Compassionate Care Visits: End-of-life situations have been used as examples of compassionate care, though the term does not exclusively refer to end-of-life situations. Examples of other types of compassionate care situations include, but are not limited to:
  • A resident who was living with their family before recently being admitted to a nursing home, is struggling with the change in environment and lack of physical family support.
  • A resident who is grieving after a friend or family member recently passed away.
  • A resident who needs cueing and encouragement with eating or drinking, previously provided by family and/or caregiver(s), is experiencing weight loss or dehydration.
  • A resident, who used to talk and interact with others, is experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently (when the resident had rarely cried in the past).

Allowing visits in these situations would be consistent with the intent of “compassionate care situations.” In addition to family members, compassionate care visits may be conducted by any individual who meets a resident’s specified needs, such as clergy or lay persons offering religious and spiritual support. This is not an exhaustive list, and other valid compassionate care situations may be identified.

Article adapted from “Oregon to ‘proceed with caution,’ allowing indoor visits at long-term care facilities” by Brad Schmidt, The Oregonian, and NF-20-140 provider alert from Oregon Department of Human Services.

Drug overdose: short film and local support

The Malheur County Health Department is doing our part on a community level to help people who use drugs reduce their risks of infection, get connected to treatment and counseling, and provide peer support from people who have lived experience and are using their lives to make a difference.

We love this is short film from the World Health Organization (WHO) about hope and life. In less than 6 minutes, it shares a glimpse of those who are striving to reduce deaths from drug overdose, and to honor the memories of those who have died. More than 500,000 deaths annually are attributable to drug use, and about 115,000 people die every year from opioid overdose alone. WHO supports countries in implementing prevention and treatment options for opioid use disorders that can decrease the risk of a drug overdose.

If you or someone you love uses drugs, call our Peer Support line at 541-709-8539. Find out more about the PRIME+ Peer Program here and come by Walk through Wednesday.

OHA Wastewater Monitoring Project Detects COVID-19 in Ontario

On October 27, 2020, OHA began sharing data related to its statewide COVID-19 wastewater monitoring project. The data shows where the virus is detected in small- to medium-sized communities around the state. The data will be placed on a map with explanatory text on how to interpret it. The data will be updated weekly.

Ontario, Oregon is one of the communities tested. So far, the data shows that COVID-19 was detected from samples taken September 13 and September 20, 2020. No other sample dates were reported for Ontario at this time.

Currently there are 29 communities participating on the project. The monitoring serves as an “early warning” system to tell us if COVID-19 is spreading silently in communities. OHA launched this project in the early fall with funding from the CDC. The project is funded for 30 months

For more information please contact OHA’s principal investigators on this project:

County Health Rankings report shows progress and opportunities for Malheur County

Malheur County is ranked in the 2020 County Health Rankings, a set of annual reports published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The reports show how counties compare to other counties in their states in overall health, and how they stack up in performance on specific health factors against national benchmarks. The Rankings are available at

For nearly a decade, the County Health Rankings have shown that where we live makes a difference in how well and how long we live. This year, analyses show that meaningful health gaps persist not only by place but also by race and ethnicity. These health gaps are largely influenced by differences in opportunities that disproportionately affect people of color, such as access to quality education, jobs, and safe, affordable housing.

For 2020, Malheur County is ranked 30th for health outcomes of 35 participating counties across Oregon. Health outcomes include length of life and quality of life. Malheur County is ranked 33rd for health factors of 35 participating counties across Oregon. Health factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

“We can’t be a healthy, thriving nation if we continue to leave entire communities and populations behind,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “Every community should use their County Health Rankings data, work together, and find solutions so that all babies, kids, and adults – regardless of their race or ethnicity – have the same opportunities to be healthy.”

This year’s Rankings explores important trends happening among the nation’s children and youth:

  • Teen Births: There are strong ties between poverty and births among teens. Teen birth rates have been declining across community types and racial groups for more than a decade, with most recent data showing a US rate of 27 per 1,000 females, ages 15-19. Hispanic teens have seen the most improvement in birth rates, falling from 77.7 to 31.9 births per 1,000 females– ages 15-19, from 2006 to 2016.  
    • In Malheur County, the teen birth rate continues to improve, with an average of 40 births per 1,000 females, aged 15-19, down from 46/1,000 last year. This is still significantly over the Oregon average of 18/1,000.
  • Children in Poverty: Poverty limits opportunities and increases the chance of poor health. Today, 1 in 5 children grow up in poverty. Available data show that, for the majority of U.S. counties, child poverty rates for American Indian/Alaskan Native, Black, or Hispanic children are higher than rates for White children, and these rates are often twice as high.
    • In Malheur County, the rate of children in poverty is 29%, nearly 1 in 3. The Oregon average is 16% of children live in poverty.

Additional areas for improvement include the rate of sexually transmitted infections (ranked 33rd of 35 counties), obesity (35% of adults in Malheur compared to 29% Oregon average), and severe housing problems (including lower than average home ownership).

For areas of strength, Malheur County exceeds the Oregon average of 77% high school graduation rate at 83%. While only 49% of our population receives some college (70% Oregon average), we can celebrate how many students graduate 12th grade. Violent crime, injury deaths, suicides, and firearm fatalities in Malheur County all rank less than the state averages.

Updated Statewide Face Covering Guidance

Effective October 19th, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released updated “Statewide Mask, Face Covering, Face Shield Guidance.” View Spanish version here and Arabic version here.

The guidance requiring face coverings in multiple settings, including workplaces and outdoor public spaces, expanding from previous versions.

In particular, the guidance requires people to wear face coverings in all private and public workplaces including classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and workspaces, even if workers can maintain a social distance, unless someone is alone in an office or in a private workspace. People must also now wear masks in outdoor markets, street fairs and both private and public universities.

Face coverings are required in all private and public workplaces; in outdoor and indoor markets, street fairs, private career schools, and both public and private colleges and universities.

Face coverings are recommended in place of a face shield, except in limited situations when a face shield is appropriate such as when communicating with someone who is deaf or hearing impaired and needs to read lips.

Children age 5 and up are required to wear a face covering. People with a disability or medical condition may request accommodation from the business if they cannot wear one.

The CDC recommends that you wear masks in public settings around people who don’t live in your household. The CDC, OHA, and the Malheur County Health Department agree with the science:

Masks help stop the spread of COVID-19 to others.

To report a business not following or enforcing the guidance, please submit an OSHA complaint.

OSHA Complaint Form:  English   Spanish

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

If you still see violations, call the Malheur County Environmental Health Office at 541-473-5186 after you have filed an OSHA complaint and seen an additional concern and we will follow up.

Global Handwashing Day

Global Handwashing Day 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an important reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy is also one of the simplest — handwashing with soap and water. Keeping hands clean can prevent 1 in 3 diarrheal illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu.

Student washing her hands at an outdoor wash basin.

Each year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day highlights the importance of handwashing with soap and water at home, in the community, and around the world.

Global Handwashing Day serves as a yearly reminder that handwashing with soap and water is one of the best steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The observance was established by the Global Handwashing Partnership in 2008. This year’s theme, “Hand Hygiene for All,” seeks to raise awareness of making soap and water available globally, especially in public places, schools, and health care facilities. It also calls for institutions and individuals to improve hand hygiene efforts in the COVID-19 response that can outlast the pandemic and ensure continued access to clean water and soap.

Many germs that can make people sick are spread when we don’t wash our hands with soap and clean, running water. That is why handwashing is so important, especially at key times such as after using the bathroom, when preparing food, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Do I really need to wash my hands for 20 seconds?

Scientific studies show that you need to scrub for 20 seconds to remove harmful germs and chemicals from your hands. If you wash for a shorter time, you will not remove as many germs. Make sure to scrub all areas of your hands, including your palms, backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.