Health Department promotes increased testing in light of outbreaks, positivity rate increase

The Malheur County Health Department will offer free drive-up COVID-19 testing this Friday, Feb. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Vale High School. Everyone is eligible; no symptoms, exposure or documentation are required. The event is in response to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases in Malheur County, particularly at Vale High School.

Due to the drive-through nature of the event, test result forms will not be available; however, people who test positive will be notified. Additionally, all negative and positive student test results will be shared with Vale School District administration.

In addition to outbreaks affecting Malheur County schools and businesses, the state’s most recent county metrics report prompted a call for increased testing as the positivity rate is on an upward trend over the past four weeks.

“The report released by the Oregon Health Authority yesterday shows that our case count per 100,000 people has dropped from 499.5 to 415.2, which is great, but it also shows that our test positivity rate has jumped from 14.3% to 16.1%. That’s a significant increase,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said. “We know that the way to get that positivity rate down is to do more testing. You can help slow the spread of COVID-19, reduce the positivity rate, and get the county open again by getting tested.”

TESTING AVAILABILITY IN MALHEUR COUNTY

Malheur County Health Department offers free COVID-19 testing by appointment four days a week at the MCHD office:

  • Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., 1-3 p.m. (except Feb. 5)

For an appointment or more information, call 541-889-7279.

Valley Family Health Care is offering COVID-19 testing every Monday in February, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Treasure Valley Community College baseball field in Ontario. Anyone requesting a test will be tested. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and test results are available in 15 minutes. Call VFHC at 208-452-6661 for more information.

Snake River Pediatrics Clinic, call for information, 541-216-6556.

Rite Aid, appointment required, CALL 541-889-3390.

More information is available at COVID Testing in Oregon.

OHA expands community-based education, outreach campaign

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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.”

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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.

MCHD Will Work with School Districts to Return Students to the Classroom

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) commends the Governor’s announcement yesterday to put more Oregon schools on track to return to in-person instruction, beginning as early as January 2021. Read the press release here. Local public health will continue working closely with school districts to follow their Ready Schools, Safe Learners Blueprints and allow more students back into the classroom in person, full time.

“As public health workers, we are very aware of the hardships that students, teachers, and parents have endured while schools are closed to regular in-person instruction and we support the efforts to return students to the classroom, where we know they thrive best,” said Sarah Poe, MCHD Director.

As a community with a nearly 30% childhood poverty rate, our schools are critical supports to the many needs families have not just for learning, but addressing many of their social determinants of health. Rural, high-poverty counties are disproportionately affected by the hardships of both COVID-19 and remote learning. For many months of this pandemic, the counties with the highest incident rate of COVID-19 cases were also counties with a high number of people of color, essential jobs in high-risk industries that cannot be done remotely, a lack of childcare providers, and less community social supports to narrow the gap in capacity to effectively and safely provide distance learning. All of these risk factors negatively affect social determinants of health and have resulted in not only a disproportionate impact of severe COVID-19, but also more students at home without safe and equitable support to sustain distance learning.

COVID-19 vaccines will be available to essential workers, including school teachers and staff, soon after the priority group of healthcare workers has had access to the vaccine. We hope to have more information on county vaccine distribution plans soon.

Thank you to the many advocates who worked on state and local levels to meet the needs of students, teachers, school staff, and families during this crisis. Thank you to Governor Brown for her decision to support a more local response.

12/16 OHA Weekly Report Update

Malheur County COVID-19 outbreaks reported in latest Weekly Outbreak Report by Oregon Health Authority. Find more statewide reports on the OHA COVID-19 website.

  • Active outbreaks in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related deaths
    • Pioneer Place: 5 cases, 0 deaths
    • Sunset Estates, 24 cases, 2 deaths
  • Resolved outbreaks in care facilities with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related death.
    • Brookdale Assisted Living Ontario: 37 cases, 5 deaths
    • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 23 cases, 3 deaths
    • Pioneer Place: 39 cases, 2 deaths
    • Riverside Manor: 3 cases, 1 death
    • Nyssa Gardens: 9 cases, 0 deaths
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 1 death
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 0 death
  • Active workplace outbreaks with five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Snake River Correctional Institution: 556 cases
    • Bureau of Land Management, Vale District Office: 5 cases
  • Resolved Outbreaks
    • Walmart 13 cases
  • K-12 Schools with recent COVID-19 Cases
    • Vale Elementary School: 4 students, 7 staff/volunteer
    • Ontario High School: 0 students, 2 staff/volunteer
    • Cairo Elementary School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer
  • Schools with recently resolved COVID-19 Cases
    • Adrian High School: 1 student, 0 staff/volunteer
    • Four Rivers Community School: 2 students, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Annex Charter School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer
    • Vale Elementary School: 2 students, 3 staff/volunteer
    • Jordan Valley High School: 1 student, 0 staff/volunteer
    • Nyssa High School: 1 student, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Nyssa Middle School: 0 students, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Nyssa Elementary School: 1 student, 3 staff/volunteers

Malheur County COVID-19 Cases by Zipcode

  • 97913 (Nyssa): 465 cases, rate of 8413.2 cases per 100,000 people
  • 97914 (Ontario): 1845 cases, rate of 9606.9 cases per 100,000 people
  • 97918 (Vale): 274 cases, rate of 6039.2 cases per 100,000 people
  • All other Malheur County Zip Codes: 92 cases
    • Total cases 12/16/20 = 2,676
    • Total cases in Nyssa, Ontario, Vale = 2,584

If you have questions or comments on outbreaks, reporting, or cases, please call the Malheur County Health Department and ask to speak with a COVID-19 Case Investigator at 541-889-7279.

OHA updates guidance for quarantine

If you have been near someone with COVID-19, you may have been exposed to the virus. You need to quarantine to keep from spreading the virus to someone else. Stay home and at least six feet away from everyone, including the people you live with, for 14 days.

A 14-day quarantine is the safest option to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.

If you have not had any symptoms, you may consider ending quarantine early:

  • After 10 days, without any testing, or
  • After seven days, if you have had a negative result from an antigen or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that was administered less than 48 hours before you end quarantine.

If you choose to shorten your quarantine period, there is a small chance you may spread the disease to others post-quarantine so it is critical that you continue to monitor yourself for symptoms daily. If you develop symptoms, you should continue to avoid contact with others and call your healthcare provider to discuss testing.

For support and resources or if you have questions during your quarantine call 211 or visit the 211 website.

COVID-19 Vaccine Updates

Vaccines won’t end the COVID-19 pandemic, but vaccination will. The following links are sources of accurate information on the state and federal upcoming COVID-19 vaccine plans to achieve community immunity.

December COVID-19 Drive-Up Testing Sites

The Malheur County Taskforce is promoting FOURTEEN free COVID-19 drive up test sites in December! With increasing cases, it is important for everyone who may have been exposed or who has symptoms to be tested so we can reduce the spread of the virus.

With the Oregon Health Authority Testing Branch, COVID-19 testing is available Tuesdays, December 8th and 15th, at the old Ontario Fire Station at the Airport (3288 SW 4th Ave. Ontario) from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register first at  doineedacovid19test.com. PRINT AND BRING YOUR VOUCHER WITH YOU. Staff will be available to assist anyone without a printed voucher. But those with the ability to register online and print their voucher first should do so to improve the wait time and complete most of the paperwork ahead of time.

Additional Monday test sites are scheduled at Treasure Valley Community College in partnership with Valley Family Health Care. Share these and more testing events from the Malheur County Emergency Management Facebook page. A huge thank you to our school partners for hosting several additional test sites before winter break.

All December Drive-Up Test Sites:

  • December 1st (10 am – 6 pm) Malheur County Fairgrounds
  • December 3rd (10 am – 12 pm) Vale Elementary
  • December 4th (10 am – 12 pm) Adrian Elementary
  • December 7th (10 am – 2:30 pm) TVCC Baseball Fields
  • December 8th (12 – 6 pm) Ontario Airport Firehouse (register)
  • December 9th (12 – 2 pm) Nyssa High School
  • December 10th (12 – 2 pm) Malheur ESD Vale
  • December 14th (10 am – 2:30 pm) TVCC Baseball Fields
  • December 15th (12 – 6 pm) Ontario Airport Firehouse (register)
  • December 16th (5 – 7 pm) Adrian Elementary
  • December 17th (5 – 7 pm) Four Rivers Community School
  • December 21st (10 am – 12 pm) Vale Elementary
  • December 21st (10 am – 2:30 pm) TVCC Baseball Fields
  • December 28th (10 am – 2:30 pm) TVCC Baseball Fields

12/2 OHA Weekly Report Update

Malheur County COVID-19 outbreaks reported in latest Weekly Outbreak Report by Oregon Health Authority.

Starting this week, there are changes to the State Weekly Report format. The most significant change is a separate report listing all active and resolved outbreaks in Oregon. Also, cases by ZIP code are now available as a data dashboard.

  • Active outbreaks in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related deaths
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 0 death
    • Sunset Estates, 17 cases, 1 death
  • Resolved outbreaks in care facilities with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related death.
    • Brookdale Assisted Living Ontario: 37 cases, 5 deaths
    • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 23 cases, 3 deaths
    • Pioneer Place: 39 cases, 2 deaths
    • Riverside Manor: 3 cases, 1 death
    • Nyssa Gardens: 9 cases, 0 deaths
    • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 6 cases, 1 death
  • Active workplace outbreaks with five or more confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Snake River Correctional Institution: 550 cases
    • Walmart 13 cases
  • Schools with recent COVID-19 Cases
    • Ontario High School: 0 students, 2 staff/volunteer
    • Cairo Elementary School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer
    • Four Rivers Community School: 2 students, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Annex Charter School: 0 students, 1 staff/volunteer
    • Adrian High School: 1 student, 0 staff/volunteer
  • Schools with recently resolved COVID-19 Cases
    • Vale Elementary School: 2 students, 3 staff/volunteer
    • Jordan Valley High School: 1 student, 0 staff/volunteer
    • Nyssa High School: 1 student, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Nyssa Middle School: 0 students, 4 staff/volunteers
    • Nyssa Elementary School: 1 student, 3 staff/volunteers

Malheur County COVID-19 Cases by Zipcode

  • 97913 (Nyssa): 435 cases, rate of 7870.5 cases per 100,000 people
  • 97914 (Ontario): 1734 cases, rate of 9028.9 cases per 100,000 people
  • 97918 (Vale): 222 cases, rate of 4893.1 cases per 100,000 people
  • All other Malheur County Zip Codes: 73 cases
    • Total cases 12/2/20 = 2,464
    • Total cases in Nyssa, Ontario, Vale = 2,391

If you have questions or comments on outbreaks, reporting, or cases, please call the Malheur County Health Department and ask to speak with a COVID-19 Case Investigator at 541-889-7279.

Free COVID-19 Testing 12/1 in Ontario

Free COVID-19 testing is available at the Malheur County Fairgrounds (795 NW 9th St, Ontario) on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Register first:  https://doineedacovid19test.com/

PRINT AND BRING YOUR VOUCHER WITH YOU. Staff will be available to assist anyone without a printed voucher. But those with the ability to register online and print their voucher first should do so to improve the wait time and complete most of the paperwork ahead of time.

This is the 15th drive-up testing site organized by the Taskforce. Each event is improved by what we’ve learned. For December’s event, we have extended hours from noon to 6 p.m. Community Based Organizations are encouraged to volunteer. Call Alliana Ramirez at 208-296-0621 to help!

Share the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/365086311462587/