Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Community & Services

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month! We want everyone to know: no matter who you are, you are welcome here.

Local Pride Events

This year, there are many events celebrating Pride month in Malheur County and Eastern Oregon. See the One Community All Spirits Stronger Together event flyer here and the EOCIL Pride program here. Follow our Events Calendar and contact us if you would like to add your community event.

Public Health & Pride

Public health supports Pride month and is active in LGBTQIA+ advocacy because creating an inclusive healthcare environment doesn’t just take care of the LGBTQIA+ patient population, it takes care of all of us. We all benefit when the people around us are healthier. (LGBTQIA+ is an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more.) People who are LGBTQIA+ have a variety of health needs and often experience health disparities, placing them at risk for negative health outcomes. Health disparities typically result from a lack of access to adequate healthcare. In public health, we care for everyone in our county, especially our most vulnerable.

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) provides compassionate, high quality care for all people in Malheur County, including LGBTQIA+ individuals of all ages. We want to address the disparities and improve health outcomes for all.

We are proud to offer many services, including:

  • Rapid HIV testing, referral, and connection to treatment
  • Sexually Transmitted Infection testing and treatment
  • Communicable disease testing and treatment, including tuberculosis and hepatitis
  • Wide range of birth control options
  • Immunizations, including HPV for all ages 9-26
  • Home Visiting programs for children under age 5 and pregnant people
  • Pregnancy testing and counseling
  • Tobacco prevention and education
  • Birth and death certificates, available within 6 months of event
  • WIC nutrition program for qualifying children under age 5 and pregnant people

We are a community of all sexual orientations and gender identities and have a variety of health needs. MCHD serves all people regardless of ability to pay, with a few low-cost exceptions. No one will be denied services based on immigration status, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or religious affiliation. We also accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and most private health insurance. If you do not have insurance, we have staff who can help you sign up for the Oregon Health Plan or determine your eligibility for other assistance programs.

We provide confidential care at low or no cost for a variety of important services that are available to all in our county. Whether it’s testing for sexually transmitted infections, accessing birth control, or getting WIC services, we are here for you. We have a safe space and are grateful for the chance to serve you.

People who are LGBTQIA+ are members of every community, including ours. They are diverse, come from all walks of life, and include people of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all socioeconomic statuses, and from all parts of the country. The perspectives and needs of LGBTQIA+ people should be routinely considered in public health efforts to improve the overall health of every person and eliminate health disparities.

According to the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, when compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to have been bullied at school, seriously considered suicide, felt sad or hopeless, used illicit drugs, been forced to have sex, and misused prescription opioids.

Find excellent resources for LGBTQIA+ Youth, Educators, and Family LGBTQ+ Youth Resources and more general resources for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health from the CDC. For healthcare providers, the American Academy of Family Physicians provides a highly-recommended LGBTQ Health Toolkit.

COVID-19 at-home tests & resources

The Malheur County Health Department has many free, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests available for pick up at our clinic during business hours. Call us at 541-889-7279 or walk in to 1108 SW 4th St, Ontario, Oregon. While you’re here, start Health is Wealth and get $100 to Albertsons once you complete the program!

The FDA has released new information this month on At-Home Over the Counter (OTC) COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests. At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are authorized for self-testing. This means you collect your own sample, perform the test, and read the result yourself without the need to send a sample to a lab.

To see if the expiration date for your at-home COVID-19 test has been extended, refer to this table, find the row that matches the manufacturer and test name shown on the box label of your test.  

  • If the Expiration Date column says that the shelf-life is “extended,” there is a link to “updated expiration dates” where you can find a list of the original expiration dates and the new expiration dates. Find the original expiration date on the box label of your test and then look for the new expiration date in the “updated expiration dates” table for your test.   
  • If the Expiration Date column does not say the shelf-life is extended, that means the expiration date on the box label of your test is still correct. The table will say “See box label” instead of having a link to updated expiration dates.  

Although case rates and serious illness have decreased in Malheur County and across the region, the virus is still in the area with cases identified each week. Thirteen cases were reported last week, with a test positivity of 13.2%. These tests are only those reported from healthcare providers and laboratories, who are testing people who may be sick or exposed. Find more about county case counts, deaths, and test positivity here.

Find the FDA table for the list of approved COVID-19 rapid home tests and their expiration extensions here.

If you test positive, it is not necessary for you to report your positive test result to the Malheur County Health Department or the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Whether or not you have symptoms, stay home and separate from others for five days. Continue to isolate from others until you have been fever free for 24 hours and other symptoms are improving. Wear a mask around others for an additional five days. If you have questions or need help, Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 or visit 211info.org. Learn more about what to do if you test positive from the OHA here.

Related Information:

Oregon will lift mask requirement for health care settings April 3

Workers, patients and visitors in health care settings will no longer be required to wear masks starting April 3, 2023, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced today.

OHA is rescinding provisions in Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 333-019-1011 that require workers in health care settings – such as hospitals, mobile clinics, ambulances, outpatient facilities, dental offices, urgent care centers, counseling offices, school-based health centers, complementary and alternative medicine locations – to wear masks. This includes the Malheur County Health Department clinic. The requirement has been in effect since August 2021.

In addition, Executive Order 22-24 will expire on March 6, 2023. The emergency gave hospitals needed flexibility to respond to a surge in respiratory infections, including COVID-19, RSV and influenza.

The decision to end statewide health care mask requirements aligns with decisions in other states, including Washington.

Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, said the lifting of Oregon’s health care mask requirement stems from data in recent weeks showing overall decreases in circulation of the three respiratory pathogens that triggered a surge in visits to hospital emergency departments and intensive care units last fall. As of today, COVID-19 test positivity is at 10% and is expected to continue dropping; influenza test positivity is at 1.2%; and RSV test positivity is at 1.6% (antigen tests) and 3.5% (molecular tests).

The month-long lead-up to the ending of Oregon’s health care mask requirement gives the health care system, local public health authorities and other health partners time to prepare for the change, including adjusting policies, training and procedures that ensure continued patient safety and access. It also gives members of the public, particularly populations at increased risk of severe disease—communities of color, tribal communities, rural communities, lower-income communities, those with underlying medical conditions, seniors, and parents of vulnerable infants – a chance to plan health care visits and protective measures.

People at higher risk for severe disease, or who live with someone at higher risk, should still consider wearing masks in health care or any settings, to better protect themselves and those most vulnerable around them. Some health care settings may continue to require masks even after the requirement is lifted.

Masks remain an effective way to reduce transmission of respiratory viruses. People are recommended to wear masks when they are sick, and individuals – particularly those with health conditions that put them at high risk for severe illness from a respiratory virus exposure–should continue to wear masks wherever they feel comfortable.

In order to protect themselves and their families and communities, people are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with vaccinations and boosters.

OHA Press Release here.

Public Health Modernization

Public health across the nation, Oregon, and in Malheur County has been changing. Local public health is experiencing a significant period of transformation. Individuals and families flourish when communities are safe and healthy and when everyone has the opportunity to thrive. The Malheur County Health Department is a key partner in making this happen locally. We work behind the scenes to protect and support our diverse communities so that people can prosper and live fulfilling lives. We are able to do this through Public Health Modernization, a framework that ensures all people and communities in Oregon have the same level of protection and support from our public health system.

Years of reduced state funding made it challenging for local public health authorities (LPHAs) to provide these services. Lack of funding means LPHAs have less staff to do this important work in their communities. Public Health Modernization is also a policy that ensures LPHAs across Oregon have the resources to protect and serve their communities.

We are changing the way we do business to ensure that our team has the skills and resources necessary to work across sectors, to question why health inequality exists, to make data-driven decisions, and to think strategically about how to engage the community to create conditions for health, safety, and equity.

Oregon is a leader in its innovative approach to health system transformation, which aims to provide better health and better care at a lower cost. Public health should support Oregon’s health system in shifting its focus to prevention of disease.

We need a health system that integrates public health, health care and community-level health improvement efforts to achieve a high standard of overall health for all Oregonians, regardless of income, race, ethnicity or geographic location. To achieve this, we must stimulate innovation and integration among public health, health systems and communities to increase coordination and reduce duplication.

2010 Oregon’s Action Plan for Health

Public health modernization ensures Oregon’s public health system will be well-prepared and able to meet this charge. A modernized public health system will provide core public health functions and maintain the flexibility needed to focus on new health challenges, which include emerging infectious diseases, climate change, threats from man-made and natural disasters, and an increase in chronic diseases.

The current Malheur County Health Department Priorities and Key Activities for Public Health Modernization:


  • Plan for and prevents communicable and environmental threats.
  • Eliminate health inequities by 2030.

Key Activities

  • Create and implement four plans:
    a. Climate Adaptation Plan
    b. All Hazards Plan
    c. Health Equity Plan
    d. Strategic Plan
  • Establish new positions focused on Community Engagement, Health Equity, and Environmental Public Health.
  • Expand existing positions for Communicable Disease and Communications.
  • Implement Health Equity Lens across all programs.
  • Build meaningful community partnerships through Malheur County Health Equity Conference and ongoing collaboration.

For more information, visit the Modernization websites from the Oregon Health Authority and the Coalition of Local Health Officials.

Please contact Kyle Sorensen, Modernization & Outreach Supervisor, at kyle.sorensen@malheurco.org, Sarah Poe, Director, at sarah.poe@malheurco.org, or call our office at 541-889-7279. We hope to make more connections with community based organizations, health care and social service providers, and individuals to volunteer and advocate for change.

Washing Chicken Spreads Germs

At our last all-staff meeting, Registered Nurse MaryLue Galligar shared great tips on food safety, including the CDC recommendation to not rinse raw chicken before cooking. We had cases of Salmonella and Campylobacter infections in our county in the last year. As a precaution, we recommend reviewing the following information from a Public Health Insider interview with Dr. Eyob Mazengia, who specializes in food safety.

Q: Let’s start with something that’s received a lot of controversy recently – food safety guidance from the CDC says to not wash raw chicken before cooking because it could spread bacteria throughout your kitchen. Many people learned to wash chicken from their parents and grandparents, who didn’t get sick from the practice. Are you saying those family cooking methods are wrong?

EM: No! This is an example of cooking practices changing as our food system has changed.

The practice of washing raw chicken may have developed in a context when people were typically eating chicken they raised themselves, or bought live from a local market.

Today in the US, most chickens are raised on very large farms and come into contact with many other chickens, which increases the spread of Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria. During processing, the meat passes through many different steps, which increases the risk for exposure to bacteria. All this means that the chicken you buy in the store are more likely to carry bacteria that can make you sick if handled improperly. In addition, the widespread use of antibiotics in farming has led to an increase in “multi-drug resistant” forms of Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria that are harder to treat.

Q: Do you think buying organic chicken, instead of conventionally farmed chicken, reduces the risk of getting sick from chicken?

EM: Regardless of which type of chicken you buy, you should assume it carries Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria. Tests show that locally, up to 30% of raw chicken test positive for Salmonella, whether it was raised on an organic or a conventional farm.

Q: If raw chicken is a potential source of harmful bacteria, why not wash it before cooking?

EM: By washing the meat, you risk spreading the bacteria throughout your kitchen without even noticing it. Washing chicken can splash bacteria up to three feet away from your sink and because you can’t see the bacteria, it’s very easy to then spread it all over your kitchen and home.

What’s more, washing the meat doesn’t kill the germs on the chicken. To kill bacteria, you should always cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165° F and use a thermometer to confirm this.

Q: Can’t you just wash the sink afterward to get rid of the bacteria?

EM: The bacteria often splashes far outside the sink without you even realizing it. More than a million bacteria can fit into single drop of heavily contaminated water, so, even if you sanitize your sink after washing the chicken, the bacteria may have already spread throughout your kitchen but be invisible to you.  Salmonella can remain active and reproduce on contaminated dry surfaces for weeks to months. 

Q: Some people marinate chicken in lemon juice or vinegar before cooking. Does this help kill bacteria?

EM: Marinating chicken in citrus juice or vinegar may reduce the regrowth of bacteria, but it won’t effectively kill the bacteria already present on the chicken. When you’re handling chicken as part of the marination process, it’s important to avoid cross-contamination. Before removing the chicken from the package, prepare all of your marinade ingredients. Set your casserole dish on a surface that can be easily cleaned. Then, gently place the chicken in the marinade and immediately wash your hands (for 20 seconds, with soap and hot water) before touching anything else.  And don’t forget to sanitize the counter top or the sink where you handled the raw chicken.

Q: Sometimes raw chicken is a little slimy or smelly. How do you deal with that if you don’t wash the meat?

EM: If you keep your chicken in the fridge for more than 24 hours after you buy it, it can develop a little bit of a film or smell. This doesn’t mean it’s dangerous to eat – typically, you can safely keep raw chicken in the fridge for up to 2 days. When you cook the chicken, this film will cook off. But, if the smell or film bothers you, I’d recommend dipping the chicken in boiling water for about 10-15 seconds. When putting the chicken in the boiling water, use tongs to hold the raw meat, and then thoroughly wash the tongs and your hands to remove bacteria. This will kill most of the bacteria and remove the film from the chicken with less risk of spreading harmful bacteria around the kitchen.

If you’re going to keep raw chicken for longer than 2 days before cooking, I’d suggest freezing it. A whole chicken can be safely kept in the freezer for up to a year, and chicken pieces can be safely kept in the freezer for up to 9 months. When you defrost the chicken, thaw it in the fridge rather than letting it sit in the sink because this method can allow the meat to become too warm and increase the number of bacteria. If you don’t have time to thaw it in the fridge, you can defrost it in the microwave. However, never cook your chicken in the microwave — microwaves don’t cook evenly so there’s a higher risk of bacteria not being killed.

Q: Any final advice?

EM: Yes! Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria can even live on the outside of the chicken package. Therefore, keep the package separated from other foods, especially produce. Don’t set the package of chicken next to your other food in the grocery cart, and in the fridge, I recommend wrapping the package of chicken in a plastic bag to avoid cross contamination and leaks.

Learn more on Food Safety from the CDC here.

Free Family Movie & Dinner March 3rd

We are excited to partner with the Healthy Oregon Modernization East (HOME) Collaborative to offer a free, family movie night filled with fun at the Cultural Center! Matsy’s catering will provide dinner at 6 p.m. Check out the educational booths, raffles, and games, then watch the Disney movie WALL-E at 7 p.m.! All ages welcome. Dinner, activities, and movie are all provided at no cost to attendees. Please share!


  • Friday, March 3rd
  • Four Rivers Cultural Center (676 SW 5th Ave, Ontario, Oregon)
  • 6 p.m. Dinner
  • 7 p.m. Movie
  • All ages
  • Free!

Call the Malheur County Health Department for more information: 541-889-7279.

Lower your cancer risk with public health services

February is National Cancer Prevention Month! In 2022, an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases were diagnosed and 609,360 people died of cancer in the United States. Research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – things like smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun.

As a result, steps such as quitting smoking (or never starting in the first place), maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, protecting your skin from the sun, getting tested and treated for communicable diseases, and getting vaccinated against the pathogens that cause certain cancers can dramatically reduce your risk of certain cancers.

There are many ways our team at the Malheur County Health Department can help you and your family reduce cancer risk:

  • Reproductive Health program provides pelvic exams, pap smears, health education and counseling.
  • Immunization program provides HPV vaccine, which protects children from 6 types of cancer later in life. The HPV vaccine recommended for boys and girls aged 9-12 and up to age 26 if not already vaccinated. Vaccines also available to protect against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer.
  • Tobacco Education and Prevention program can help create policies for smoke-free spaces, provide education, and refer to Quit Line services.
  • WIC program provides nutrition counseling for pregnant women and children up to age 5. Our Registered Dietician and WIC Certifiers provide education on how to follow a healthy diet that can lower cancer risk.
  • Communicable Disease and STI testing programs provide rapid testing for several infections that can cause cancer. Hepatitis can cause liver cancer. Chlamydia increases risk of cervical cancer. People with HIV are susceptible to several cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma.

Learn more about National Cancer Prevention Month from the American Association for Cancer Research and American Cancer Society.

COVID-19 rapid test expiration dates extended

Abbott Laboratories just released an update regarding Abbott BinaxNOW expiration dates. Effective immediately, all Abbott BinaxNOW test kits have a shelf life of 22 months from date of manufacture.

iHealth just released an update regarding iHealth self-test expiration dates. Effective immediately, all iHealth self-test kits have a shelf life of 15 months from date of manufacture.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will continue to supply Abbott test kits for use under CLIA certification of waiver to health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid or otherwise serve vulnerable populations. These testing supplies are expected to remain available through July 2024. Organizations in Oregon may order Abbott BinaxNOW tests here.

OHA will also continue to supply iHealth self-test kits to priority partners serving populations with limited or no access to testing. Priority partners include hospitals, local public health and tribal authorities, organizations serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers, state and federally funded early learning programs, community-based organizations, behavioral health facilities, homeless service sites, and K-12 schools. These testing supplies will remain available until supplies are exhausted. Organizations may order iHealth self-tests here.

iHealth Rapid Antigen tests are authorized for non-prescription home use with self-collected anterior nasal swab samples from individuals age 15 or older who have symptoms of COVID-19 within the first seven days of symptom onset. People age 2-15 may use the test, if an adult collects the swab samples. Test results are available in 15 minutes.

Rapid antigen tests, such as the iHealth tests, are not typically accepted as proof of a negative COVID-19 test for travel.

Extreme Weather Preparedness & Health Equity

With devastating wildfires and extreme cold across Oregon and Idaho in recent years, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Public Health have expanded focus to severe weather and protecting those who may be at higher risk. The Malheur County Health Department is currently developing an All Hazards Plan, a Health Equity Plan, and a Climate Adaptation Plan to better protect everyone in our county and prepare for disasters.

Recently, Dr. Leandris Liburd, Director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, shared important points in a recent newsletter relevant to people in Malheur County especially because of our high risk on the Social Vulnerability Index.

“Social vulnerability is the potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health. Such stresses include natural or human-caused disasters, or disease outbreaks. Reducing social vulnerability can decrease both human suffering and economic loss.”

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Dr. Liburd shared what she learned from Dr. Patrick Breysse, Director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR, on how “communities that experience a disproportionate burden of health disparities across a variety of health issues might also be at greater risk for the negative impacts of climate change,” which includes extreme weather. Some of his points related to health equity and extreme weather preparedness are below.

  • People throughout the United States face climate change-related health risks, but some of us will feel the effects earlier and more severely. This is because of differences in our exposures to climate hazards, our sensitivity to these hazards, and our ability to adapt. These obstacles particularly affect communities of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, people who are incarcerated or without homes, and those who live in rural or frontier settings.
  • Climate change will worsen existing disparities in social conditions and health, and harms associated with climate change are burdening groups that have contributed the least to cause it. Very often, communities with lower access to basic necessities such as clean air and water, and other vital social determinants of health (SDOH) struggle to fully recover from climate related events, leaving them more fragile to respond to future health hazards. 
  • Partnering with communities with the greatest need to ensure they have consistent access to their basic necessities is an important step in becoming more resilient against climate change.

Prevent and Treat Frostbite & Hypothermia

With temperatures around Ontario below freezing nearly every day lately, it’s important to stay warm. In cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, which can lead to serious health problems. This occurs from inadequate protection against exposure to cold temperatures. The very young and elderly are the most susceptible to developing hypothermia when exposed to cold temperatures.

The risk and extent of hypothermia is directly influenced by presence of wet clothing, contact with metals, wind-chill, and extent of temperature gradient between the body and its surroundings. Vulnerability is increased when circulation is impaired by cardiovascular disease, alcohol intake, exhaustion, and/or hunger.

Frostbite Caution

Since skin may be numb, victims of frostbite can harm themselves further. Use caution when treating frostbite and:

  • Unless necessary, do not walk on feet or toes with frostbite
  • Do not use a fireplace, heat lamp, radiator, or stove for warming
  • Do not use a heating pad or electric blanket for warming
  • Do not rub or massage areas with frostbite

Signs of frostbite

  • Signs and Symptoms
    • Redness or pain in any skin area may be the first sign of frostbite.
  • Other signs include:
    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels  unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness

Hypothermia symptoms

  • Adults:
    • shivering
    •  exhaustion
    • confusion
    • fumbling hands
    • memory loss
    • slurred speech
    • drowsiness
  • Infants:
    • bright red, cold skin
    • very low energy

What to do if someone has hypothermia

  • If a person becomes unconscious, get medical help immediately. If cardiac arrest (heart attack) has occurred, have someone call for medical assistance and then apply CPR.
  • WARNING: Do not warm the person too fast.
  • Bring the person indoors or to a dry place protected from the wind.
  • Remove wet clothing and cover the person with dry blankets. Make sure to cover the head, hands, and feet.
  • Put the person in a cot or bed next to a warm — not hot — heater.
  • Lie under the covers next to the person to transfer your own body heat. If possible, have someone else lie on the other side.
  • Give the person warm — not hot — broth or soup. Do not give alcohol to drink.
  • Wrap an infant inside your own clothing against your skin.

How to prevent hypothermia & frostbite

  • Wear warm, multi-layered clothing with good hand and feet protection (avoid overly constricting wrist bands, socks, and shoes).
  • Wear warm headgear. This is particularly important since significant heat is lost through an unprotected head.
  • If possible, change into dry clothes whenever clothing becomes wet.
  • Find appropriate shelter to stay warm.

Article adapted from King County Public Health and the CDC.