OHA Weekly Report

Read the Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 Weekly Report released July 15th. The COVID-19 Weekly Report data is finalized every Sunday at 11 p.m. PDT, and the report is published each Wednesday.

Malheur County has four outbreaks meeting the threshold for reporting:

  • Brookdale Assisted Living: 32 cases, 1 death
  • Snake River Correctional Institution, 117 cases
  • The Kraft Heinz Company, 6 cases
  • Oregon Child Development, 5 cases

The statewide positive testing rate during the time the data was collected for the Weekly Report (July 6–July 12), was 6.2%, meaning 6.2% of all COVID-19 tests reported in the state were positive. During the same period, the positive testing rate in Malheur County was 33.6% (180 positive tests, 356 negative tests, 536 total tests).

It is essential that people in Malheur County take this risk very seriously and do their part to reduce outbreaks by staying home when sick or during isolation or quarantine. Wash your hands. Wear a face covering. Keep your distance.

More on Face Coverings Required Statewide

Face coverings are currently required statewide for indoor public spaces (for example, grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit, personal services providers, restaurants, bars, retail stores, and more).

New Statewide Rule: As of July 15, face coverings are also required in outdoor public spaces when physical distancing is not possible.

For children over the age of 2 and under the age of 12, it is recommended, but not required, that they wear a mask, face shield or face covering. People with a disability or medical condition may request accommodation from the business if they cannot wear a mask, face shield or face covering.

Current Data Trends

Malheur County and surrounding Idaho counties are seeing a surge of new COVID-19 cases. Both Idaho and Oregon have alarming rates of new cases. Hospitalization surges lag behind surges several weeks, although we have already seen an increase in hospitalizations and severe illness. By sharing our COVID-19 testing data in multiple ways, we hope to raise awareness about the severity of the virus and that the public will do their part to slow the spread.

Credit to Daniel Morris, PhD for interpreting our current COVID-19 data into better to understand graphs.

The virus is spreading. Watch for symptoms!

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. If you have any symptoms, please isolate at home and call your health care provider for testing.

Malheur County Announces Third Death Associated with COVID-19

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is saddened to announce the third death in Malheur County associated with COVID-19. Our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost a loved one.

The third death occurred in a male, in his 70s. The person tested positive for COVID-19 prior to passing at a Boise area hospital on July 11, 2020, where he received treatment related to COVID-19.

Case investigators are diligently working on this case and the drastic surge in cases recently. MCHD urges everyone to take precautions seriously to protect the spread of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable in our community.

MCHD and SRCI Report on Increasing COVID-19 Cases

A large number of COVID-19 positive cases have been reported by the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) in the last week. As of Monday, July 13, 2020, OHA indicates that a total of 102 people tested positive for COVID-19 in connection to the outbreak at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI). The case count includes all Oregon residents linked to the outbreak, including Adults In Custody (AIC), employees, household members, and other close contacts to an employee. The case count does not include any Idaho residents who may be associated with the outbreak, as laboratories report positive tests results to the state in which an individual resides. OHA is working closely with Idaho to coordinate contact tracing across state lines. For data on all confirmed cases at SRCI, visit the DOC COVID-19 Tracking Tool at oregon.gov/doc/covid19/Pages/covid19-tracking.aspx.

SRCI is Oregon’s largest prison with 2,899 medium-security beds and 167 minimum-security beds. All AICs who test positive or are awaiting test results, will be housed in medical services rooms or Special Housing Units (which have been repurposed for medial isolation) and are separate from the general population units at the institution. All DOC employees entering the institution will have their temperature taken and answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms.

Malheur County has 402 total COVID-19 Positive Cases. Only 65 are out of isolation. The positive rate of testing overall is at a high of 15.6%. On July 7, Oregon reported a 4.0% positive rate. It is important to note that even without counting the SRCI cases, Malheur County is experiencing a tremendous surge in community-spread cases. Ada, Canyon and Payette Counties in Idaho have a total of 6,440 cases reported within approximately 100 miles east of Malheur County. As a border community with many people travelling between states frequently, it is essential that we proactively reduce the spread by following public health guidance, including avoiding large gatherings, keeping physical distance from all people you don’t live with, wearing face coverings, and staying home with symptoms or while in quarantine or isolation.

Many SRCI employees are residents of Idaho and their COVID-19 test results are reported to Idaho. SRCI internally tracks total staff who are affected, regardless of residence, but won’t be reported or monitored by MCHD. MCHD and OHA coordinate closely with Idaho for contact tracing and outbreak investigation. For Idaho residents with COVID-19 questions, please reach out to our partner at Southwest District Health (SWDH). Questions may be directed to the SWDH COVID-19 call center Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 208-455-5411. Please refer to the SWDH Website at phd3.idaho.gov for the latest local numbers and data and the Idaho COVID-19 Website at coronavirus.idaho.gov for statewide information.

It is essential that all confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contacts answer the call from their public health department and follow the instructions for isolation and quarantine. If you have a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, a case investigator will call and encourage you to self-isolate, even if you don’t have symptoms or feel sick. Self-isolation means staying away from everyone, including the people you live with and family members; not sharing utensils or bathrooms with others; only leaving home to seek medical treatment. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, a contact tracer will ask you to quarantine for 14 days after last close contact with the case or the date of the positive test. Quarantine means you stay home and stay at least 6 feet away from everyone you live with. During your quarantine, contact tracers will call or text you daily to see how you are feeling; encourage you to get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms; and connect you with resources if needed.

Typically, a person with a confirmed COVID-19 case must isolate at home for at least 10 days after your symptoms began and at least 72 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms improve. SRCI is requiring all COVID-19 positive Staff to isolate at home for 14 days after symptom onset or positive test. Regardless of which state a person lives in, they should complete isolation or quarantine periods with monitoring by public health.

A person can not return to work during the isolation or quarantine period with a negative test result because the incubation period of the virus is up to 14 days and a negative test does not mean that the person isn’t infected and won’t test positive later. A doctor’s note is not required by the Oregon Investigative Guidelines to return to work if the isolation and quarantine time is complete. Public Health can provide cases and contacts with letters verifying their isolation or quarantine is complete to give to their employers.

It is the responsibility of the whole community to protect each other from the coronavirus. Please do your part to reduce the spread to those who are essential workers and those who are most vulnerable. Wash your hands. Wear a face covering. Watch your distance.

COVID-19 Trends

With 173 new cases in the last week, the rate of new COVID-19 cases in Malheur County is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The above graph shows the rate of new cases over 15 weeks, since our first lab-confirmed positive case was reported the week of March 29th. These are only cases showing a current, active infection.

The Oregon Health Authority’s most recent Public Health Indicators Report shows the following within the last 7 days as of July 8th:

  • 19.6% positive test rate (uptrend)
  • 125% increase in cases (should be no more than 5%)
  • 46% of cases not traced to a known source (should be no more than 30%)
  • Uptrend in COVID-19 hospitalizations over last 14 days
  • Good news is that 99% of cases had follow up within 24 hours from MCHD
  • More good news: .7% of ED visits for COVID-like illness

As record numbers of Oregonians, including those in Malheur, have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, many have wondered if that’s simply due to increased testing. Although testing has increased, the positive test rate, which shows the prevalence of the virus, has increased. By offering tests to more and more people at a lower threshold, meaning people with fewer or no symptoms are included in testing, the positive test rate should go down as the number of tests increases. Last week, 497 COVID-19 tests were reported in Malheur County and the positive test rate went up to 15.1%. The takeaway is that COVID-19 is spreading more rampantly and we are not doing enough testing to keep up with the increasing infections. On July 7th, the Oregon Health Authority reported a statewide average of a 4% positive rate.

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

Malheur County announces second death associated with COVID-19

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is saddened to announce the second death in Malheur County associated with COVID-19. The death occurred in a female, in her 80s. The person had tested positive for COVID-19 eight days prior to passing at a Boise area hospital on July 9, 2020.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost a loved one.

Case investigators are diligently working on this case and the drastic surge in cases recently. MCHD urges everyone to take precautions seriously to protect the spread of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable in our community.

What would herd immunity mean without a vaccine?

A dangerous concept has been misunderstood and circulated on social media: let everyone be exposed to COVID-19 and establish herd immunity quickly without a vaccine. Using the CDC Case Surveillance Data Report is the best way to compare outcomes in the United States to Malheur County. The report “describes demographic characteristics, underlying health conditions, symptoms, and outcomes among 1,320,488 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases individually reported to CDC during January 22–May 30, 2020.”

If the public fail to protect each other from COVID-19 and enough people were infected to establish herd immunity without a vaccine, what would that mean in numbers for our population?

  • Some estimates require 70-90% of the population develop sufficient antibodies for herd immunity. (We still don’t even know that a positive COVID-19 test means that you have enough antibodies to not be reinfected.) Let’s settle on 80% of our population for herd immunity as an average.
  • 80% of our approximate population of 30,000 is 24,000. Hypothetically, 24,000 people would need to have COVID-19 in Malheur County to establish herd immunity before a vaccine.
  • The CDC data shows that 14% of cases required hospitalization and 5% of cases died.
  • Of the hypothetical 24,000 people in Malheur County who would be infected, that means that 3,360 people would require hospitalization.
  • Of the hypothetical 24,000 people in Malheur County who would be infected, that means that 1,200 people would die. (Even if only .5% of people died, that would be 120 lives lost that could have been saved.)

The CDC report shows that “among COVID-19 cases, the most common underlying health conditions were cardiovascular disease (32%), diabetes (30%), and chronic lung disease (18%). Hospitalizations were six times higher and deaths 12 times higher among those with reported underlying conditions compared with those with none reported.”

The Oregon Health Authority reports that 53.7% of adults in Malheur County have one or more chronic underlying health conditions. This means our population is at high risk of severe cases of COVID-19.

Help us dispel the myth that herd immunity without vaccine is an option. We must flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases (we’re at 287 cases today with a 12.4% positive rate) to buy us more time. We all need to act to prevent the spread so our hospital system is not overwhelmed and lives are not lost.

Business Enforcement of Statewide Face Covering Guidance

With daily complaints about businesses not enforcing the guidance requiring people over age 12 to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces, we are grateful for the Oregon OSHA memo below clarifying how businesses need to enforce.

“The State of Oregon recognizes the challenges created by the guidance that directs businesses and others responsible for indoor spaces to require employees, contractors, volunteers, customers and visitors to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering. In implementing the requirement as it relates to customers or visitors who are not wearing a mask, face shield, or facial covering, Oregon OSHA expects a business or other responsible for indoor spaces to take the following measures:

  • If an employee or other representative of the employer encounters a customer or visitor without a mask, face shield or facial covering, they should politely draw the customer or visitor’s attention to the public health requirement to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering.
  • Best Practice: Arrange to greet customers upon entry so that the issue can be addressed as they enter the store.
  • Best Practice: Keep a supply of inexpensive disposable face coverings to offer customers or guests who do not have one.
  • If an individual declines to wear a mask, face shield or face covering, the employer (or their representative) should politely inquire as to whether the person has a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
  • If the individual indicates they have a medical condition or disability that prohibits them from wearing a mask, face shield or face covering, the employer may offer them an accommodation – an alternative method of service that would still protect others in the business or indoor space (such as curbside pickup if practical, shopping from a catalog, etc.), or ask them if a face shield would be a suitable option.
  • Best Practice: Keep a supply of face shields that can be loaned and then sanitized between uses.
  • If the individual indicates that they do not have a relevant medical condition or disability (or refuses to answer) but refuses to wear a mask, face shield or face covering, they should be politely told that the employer cannot serve them and that they need to leave the premises. Under no circumstances should the employer or their representative attempt to physically block an individual from entering or physically remove them from the premises. If the individual refuses to leave, the business or other organization should follow whatever procedures would normally be employed if an individual refuses to leave the establishment when asked to do.
  • Best Practice: Offer the same options to shop outside the business to individuals who choose not to wear a mask, face shield or face covering as you would to someone with a disability or medical condition.
  • Best Practice: Make sure employees know that, if an individual indicates they have difficulty hearing or understanding them with the mask or face covering it is appropriate to step farther away, then to lift or remove the mask or face covering.”

To file a complaint related to OHA guidance, please first contact OSHA:

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

Complaint form  English   Spanish

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

If you still see violations, call our office at 541-889-7279 after you have filed an OSHA complaint and seen an additional concern and we will follow up.

Face Masks Facts

Excellent advice from Dr. Morris Smith and Dr. Brian Kitamura! Dr. Smith is the Health Officer for the Malheur County Health Department and Dr. Kitamura is an important partner at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center – Ontario. Please watch and share!

Read recent Face Covering Facts from the OHA.

Practice the Facts:

  • CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Oregon REQUIRES face coverings in public indoor spaces for all over age 12.
  • Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
  • Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.
  • Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.