Governor Kate Brown Announces Updates to the County Watch List

News release September 18, 2020, edited to focus on Malheur County.

Governor Kate Brown announced last Friday that Umatilla and Morrow Counties have succeeded in reducing the spread of COVID-19 sufficiently enough to be removed from the County Watch List.

“I want to commend county officials and community members in Umatilla and Morrow Counties for stepping up and working together to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “The progress they have made in curbing community transmission shows that we can reduce the spread of this disease if we all do our part by wearing face coverings, watching our physical distance, washing our hands, staying home when sick, and avoiding large gatherings.”

County Watch List

Counties are placed on the Watch List when COVID-19 is spreading quickly and public health officials cannot trace that spread to specific sources—creating a potentially dangerous dynamic. Specific markers of this rapid community spread include when there is a sporadic case rate of 50 or more per 100,000 people in the last two weeks and the county has had more than five sporadic cases in the last two weeks (sporadic cases are those that cannot be traced to a source; they indicate community spread). Counties remain on the Watch List for a minimum of three weeks and until their sporadic case rates drop below these thresholds.

The County Watch List allows the state to prioritize resources and assistance to counties that are seeing the broadest spread of COVID-19. When a county is placed on the Watch List, the Oregon Health Authority increases monitoring and communication, and deploys additional technical assistance and resources, such as epidemiological support, case investigation, and contact tracing help.

No counties have been added to the Watch List this week.

Malheur County

Malheur County remains on the County Watch List. While county officials and community members have been working hard to stem the spread of COVID-19, Malheur County faces particular challenges, including the county’s proximity to Idaho and the amount of travel back and forth across the state border. Idaho continues to have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the country, and the communities across the border from Malheur County are among the hardest hit by the virus. Bringing infection rates down in Malheur County will require state and local officials across the border to do their part as well.

The Oregon Health Authority continues to monitor the COVID-19 spread in Malheur County and remains in close communication with county officials. OHA will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, and stands ready to work with counties should any concerns arise. As noted in this week’s Weekly Report from OHA, new cases of COVID-19 declined in the last week, as did the state’s positivity rate––however the number of Oregonians tested also declined due to disruptions and delays caused by active wildfires.

Governor Brown added, “COVID-19 is still very much with us, and, together, all of us play a part in helping keep our friends, families, and neighbors safe and healthy. With cold and flu season approaching, it’s also a great time to get your flu shot, to help make sure our frontline health care workers have the bed capacity and resources they need to continue treating COVID-19 patients.”

Walk Through Wednesday

Click to open flyer PDF.

Free, confidential peer support for at Walk Through Wednesdays outside Mallards every Wednesday from noon – 3 p.m. 797 North Oregon Street in Ontario. Share the Facebook Event here.

Get harm reduction resources such as care packages, safer use supplies, safer sex supplies, masks, and naloxone, the overdose reversal drug. Free rapid hepatitis C testing. Connection to resources, including substance use treatment.

You are not alone. How can we help you?

Learn more about the PRIME+ Program:

PRIME+ is a Peer Delivered Service program sponsored by the Oregon Health Authority.

October 14 Free COVID-19 Testing Event

Click on flyer to download copy.

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce, in partnership with Oregon Health Authority, and local community-based organizations, is proud to announce an upcoming large COVID-19 testing event. Free COVID-19 testing is available to individuals over age seven at the Malheur County Fairgrounds (795 NW 9th St, Ontario) on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is the 13th and largest planned drive-up testing site organized by the Taskforce.

Flu shots will also be available at the drive-up testing site with limited supply to any Malheur County residents. The Flu Point of Distribution (POD) is for people without insurance who do not have flu or COVID-like symptoms. 


Testing at the Malheur Drive-Up Testing Sites is for any individual over age seven. No symptoms, registration, insurance, or documentation is required.

This testing option is not meant to replace or eliminate other testing offered by local healthcare providers. The goal is to supplement those options in order to ease some of the pressure on the existing system and make the process more accessible to the public. People still should contact their medical provider for guidance and assessment if they have symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. For medical emergencies, they should call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that you may have COVID-19.

Testing Procedure

Upon arrival at the Malheur County Fairgrounds testing site, individuals will be required to remain in their vehicles at all times. Each driver should drive cautiously and follow traffic directions. Individuals will be required to complete a screening form. All forms and service available in English and Spanish.

Personnel in full medical protective gear will check the individual’s temperature with a no-touch thermometer and use an oximeter to measure blood oxygen level. Personnel will give instruction on how to self-swab each nostril. The sample will be sent to a laboratory the following day and each person tested will receive a call with negative or positive test results within seven days.

Additional information on COVID-19, flu shots, and the testing site is available by calling the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279.

COVID-19 Resources for Agricultural Workers and Employers

Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is committed to reducing inequalities and promoting precautions that will protect everyone in Malheur County. Agricultural workers are being hit tremendously hard by COVID-19 across Oregon and the nation. Please share the following resources with agricultural workers and employers and help keep a vital part of our community safe as COVID-19 continues to spread.

If you have symptoms or if you have had contact with a known COVID-19 case, please stay home and get tested. If you have insurance, call your health care provider to ask if you can be tested. If you are uninsured, call MCHD at 541-889-7279 to schedule a test.

Stay Informed and Share

What You Need to Know About COVID-19

For Agricultural Workers and Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers

For Agricultural Employers

In Malheur County, we are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Many agricultural workers identify as Hispanic. People who identify as Hispanic make up 13% of the population of Oregon, yet represent 40% of cases. Idaho is reporting similar disparities. The Oregon public health response addresses disparities. Contact Tracers help to meet basic needs of those who are isolated or quarantined because of COVID-19, including connection to resources for food, wage support, and temporary housing when needed. Local Community Based Organizations and health care providers are also building trust, sharing culturally responsive resources in multiple languages, and providing wrap around services for those in need.

Malheur County COVID-19 Data Update

Today, Malheur County reported its 20th death in someone with COVID-19 and surpassed 1,300 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. While some health departments do not share data separate from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), MCHD has updated the daily case count and demographic case data since March 30th, when the first case was reported in Malheur County. The COVID-19 Cases page reports total positive and presumptive case counts, negative and total test counts, percent of tests reported positive over time and within the last week, last and past three week number of cases, daily number of new cases, deaths, presumed to be recovered, age and sex of cases, number currently hospitalized, number of tests completed by week, and the rate of cases.

While we want to report on information that will keep our community informed, more information is available by referring to the frequently updated OHA Data Dashboards and Data Reports, including Daily Update, Weekly COVID-19 Report, Weekly Testing Summary, OHP Enrollment, Pediatric COVID-19 Report, Epidemic Trends and Projections, School Metrics, and County Watch List Data. Previous reports can be found here. Data Dashboards include Oregon COVID-19 Update, Case and Testing Counts Statewide, Case Demographics and Disease Severity Statewide, Testing and Outcomes by County, Hospital Capacity, and Public Health Indicators.

The Weekly COVID-19 Report is an excellent way to get an overview at the county and state level each Wednesday. The latest report can be found on the OHA COVID-19 website under the heading “Situation in Oregon.” The Weekly Reports identify outbreaks and cases by zip code, as covered in a recent post on

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.
  • Pregnant women should visit the CDC’s website for the most current guidance.
  • Breastfeeding women should visit Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine for the most current guidance.

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

Malheur County COVID-19 Outbreaks Update

COVID-19 has spread throughout Oregon and multiple outbreaks have been identified in Malheur County. Case Investigators from the Malheur County Health Department are working with individuals and businesses to identify and isolate people who are sick. We are working diligently every day to find out who may have been in close contact with people who were recently infected with COVID-19. The disease can spread to those who have not been exposed before signs of illness appear. Those who have COVID-19 but never show signs of illness can also spread the illness to others. Individuals who have been in close contact will be asked to stay home to prevent unintentional spread to others.

We know that staying home from work can create hardships for some. Local and state health officials are working with community partners and service providing agencies to coordinate wrap around services for those asked to remain home. If you know someone who is following our request, thank them for their sacrifice and for doing their part to keep others safe.  

With 1,118 cases and 19 deaths to date, COVID-19 continues to impact the people in Malheur County. Our thoughts are with those who have experienced losses. We want to be safe and healthy and to support those in our community who need help. Stay up to date by checking the COVID-19 Cases page for case numbers and demographics. It will take everyone doing their part to keep their neighbors safe to reduce the number of losses in our community. Learn more below about outbreaks and what to do to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

FAQ: COVID-19 Outbreaks in Workplaces

Business Outbreaks in Malheur County

(OHA COVID-19 Weekly Report August 26, 2020)

  • Riverside Manor: 3 cases
  • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 23 cases
  • Wellsprings Assisted Living: 4 cases
  • Brookdale Assisted Living: 37 cases
  • Snake River Correctional Institution: 256 cases
  • Kraft Heinz Company: 18 cases
  • Walmart: 10 cases
  • Amalgamated Sugar: 6 cases
  • Oregon Child Development: 6 cases

Malheur County on State Watch List

(Data Report through August 22, 2020)

  • Sporadic case rate per 100,000: 502.64 (highest in state)
  • Case rate per 100,000: 792.98 (highest in state)

Cases by ZIP Code

(Rate is per 100,000 people)

  • 97913 Nyssa: 180 cases, rate 3256.7
  • 97914 Ontario: 894 cases, rate 4655.0
  • 97918 Vale: 76, rate 1675.1
  • Total cases statewide for ZIP codes with less than 1,000 people: 500

Know the risk of your activities

We all can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Before you start your daily activities, ask yourself four questions to figure out how risky the situation is.

  • Who is involved?
    • Fewer people means your chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 are low.
  • Where will you be?
    • Private spaces like your home or backyard are less risky than crowded places with many people.
  • How close will you be to people who don’t live with you?
    • There’s less risk if you can stay at least 6 feet away from people who don’t live with you.
  • How long will you be around people who don’t live with you?
    • Spend more time with people who live with you; it’s less risky than spending time with people who don’t.

Be prepared by creating a plan

Help your household stay safe by creating a plan that includes these steps:

  • Make sure everyone has a face covering they can use when they leave the house.
  • Assign one person to go to the grocery store no more than once per week.
  • Disinfect surfaces that are used often — like door knobs, car doors, steering wheels, and phones.
  • Know the symptoms of COVID-19 and the phone number of a doctor or community health worker you can call if someone gets sick. If you don’t have a doctor, call 211.
  • Have a plan so that if someone at home gets sick, they can be as separated as possible from others.

Wear a face mask

Remember, there’s statewide guidance on wearing a mask or face covering when you leave home for daily activities. Find more information about what type of face covering to wear here and follow the tips below.

  • DO wear a cloth face covering in public to help protect people around you. If you have COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, you can still infect others around you.
  • DO wear a face covering at home if you have symptoms or are taking care of a person who might be sick.
  • DO make a cloth face covering at home from household items or common materials at low cost.
  • DO make sure your face covering covers both your nose and mouth, fits snugly enough to stay secure but still allows you to breathe.
  • DO wash your cloth face covering every day or after each use, with warm water and soap. If it is single-use, dispose as soon as it is damp.
  • DO continue to maintain six-feet of space from other people and wash your hands frequently
  • DON’T use cloth face coverings on children younger than 2 years of age or anyone who has trouble breathing.
  • DON’T touch your face while wearing a face covering.

Malheur County Reviews School Blueprints for Reentry

Returning Oregon students to onsite learning is an enormous responsibility that is shared by schools, districts, and local and state public health agencies. At this time, no school in Malheur County meets the criteria for in-person instruction, although some meet exceptions. All schools meet the exception that provides an allowance for limited in-person instruction for specific groups of students. Three districts (Arock, Juntura, and Jordan Valley) meet the exception for districts with enrollment of <75 students in total in areas with less cases and community spread and will be able to reopen for in-person instruction. For more information on the criteria, visit the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) School Metrics Dashboard, a visual Metrics Explainer, and the full Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance for planning for the 2020-2021 school year.

For schools to be able to meet the exception for “low population density counties,” the following metrics need to be met:

  • Total county COVID-19 cases in the last three weeks is ≤30, with less than half of cases (or ≤5 cases) reported in the last week of the three-week period.
  • Schools fully comply with sections 1-3 of the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance and students cannot be part of any single cohort, or part of multiple cohorts that is >50 people.
  • There is not community spread in the school catchment area.
  • There is not community spread in the communities that serve as the primary employment and community centers (for shopping and other in-person services) and the school is isolated by a significant distance from communities reporting COVID-19 community spread in the previous three weeks. 
  • The school does not serve a significant number of transfer students from outside its catchment area that are from communities reporting COVID-19 community spread in the previous three weeks.

In response to those metrics, Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is reporting the number of cases per day, per week, and over the past three weeks on the daily updated COVID-19 Cases page, so that the community can track how close we are to allowing those exceptions to school districts.

MCHD has received the following schools’ Operational Blueprint for Reentry, written following the guidance issued by the ODE. Staff from Malheur County Health Department and Environmental Health are reviewing sections One through Three of the Blueprints. Links to district plans can be found on the Oregon Department of Education website. We are ready to work with these schools to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our community.

  • Adrian School District
    • Adrian Elementary/Middle School
    • Adrian High School
  • Arock School District
    • W W Jones Elementary School
  • Annex School District
    • Annex K-8
  • Burnt River School District
  • Community School
    • Four Rivers Community School
  • Jordan Valley School District
    • Rockville School
  • Juntura School District
    • Juntura K-8
  • Harper School District
    • Harper Charter School
  • Huntington School District
    • Huntington Schools
  • Nyssa School District
    • Nyssa High School
    • Nyssa Middle School
    • Nyssa Elementary School
  • Ontario School District
    • Aiken Elementary School
    • Alameda Elementary School
    • Cairo Elementary School
    • May Roberts Elementary School
    • Ontario High School
    • Ontario Middle School
    • Pioneer Elementary School
  • St. Peter School District
  • Vale School District
    • Oregon Trail Learning Academy
    • Willowcreek Elementary
    • Vale High School
    • Vale Middle School
    • Vale Elementary School

MCHD urges the public to come together and be vigilant. Help us reduce the spread of COVID-19, prevent overloading the health care system, and keep people healthy. This virus is dangerously impacting a large percentage of our community and it still poses a great threat. Please follow safety measures in place to help schools reopen for in person instruction. It’s up to us to follow the guidance if we want to keep Malheur County safe and strong.

Open Letter to Governor Brown

The following letter was sent to Governor Brown’s office today in response to Malheur County being put in Phase 1.

Dear Governor Brown,

Thank you for your ongoing support and care for Oregonians, including the people in Malheur County. With 0.7% of the state population, we have a smaller infrastructure to respond to public health emergencies, but the capacity needs are not much different than they are in urban counties when it comes to COVID-19 prevention and outcomes. This provides many new opportunities for the future of public health modernization and investment in Malheur County and across the state. We will do our best to rise to the current challenges and ask for your continued assistance as we respond to the change to put Malheur County back to Phase 1 and want to prevent the possibility of a stay home order that does not address the reasons we see community spread and increased outbreaks, which are detailed in part below.

Situation Update

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Malheur County, there are a few concerns important to keep in consideration. With over 7,300 COVID-19 cases in Idaho counties that share a border with Malheur County, the possibility of Malheur cases being linked to Idaho cases is high, yet Orpheus, the Oregon electronic disease surveillance system, does not share information with the Idaho communicable disease reporting system. This means that a number of Malheur cases are not able to be linked to known cases in Orpheus, even if they are already entered as a Person Under Monitoring (PUM) to an Idaho case. It will be difficult to get the percentage of cases linked to a known case down if only Oregon cases are counted.

As of the last OHA Weekly Update, pulling data from August 9th, 176 COVID-19 cases were reported as an outbreak at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI). That same day, Malheur County reported a total of 800 cases, making the SRCI numbers 22% of total cases. With the majority of those cases in Adults in Custody, we recommend removing those cases when evaluating future changes in phases. We have concern and care for Adults in Custody and the staff at SRCI and have a positive relationship with leadership locally and at the Department of Correction.

The metric for positive rate of cases to be less than 5% was absolutely a goal for the first several months of testing in Malheur County, but is an unreasonable percentage at this point because such a high percentage of the county has already been infected. With each new positive case, if the person had a negative test, that number would be deducted from the negative count and added to the positive. With 4,550 tests already reported in the county as of August 14th, 14.7% of the county is already represented. We would have to have an 16,172 additional people (over half of the population of the county) to test negative to bring the rate to 5%. This is not a realistic goal with current testing capacity of limited testing supplies and low accessibility of testing through health care providers for people without symptoms.

Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) Case Investigators report that a high percentage of cases are of people with many close contacts, who are essential business workers or share households with essential workers, and in a large percentage of people who have chronic underlying health conditions, especially obesity and diabetes, making the risk of severe cases higher. Hesitance to be tested or access health care have also been frequently reported. Going to the baseline phase of a stay at home order would not directly address these trends, because most of the industries in Malheur County where we see COVID-19 cases increasing are considered essential, primarily agriculture and food processing. What would be impacted is the availability of child care, while schools are closed for in person instruction, and additional economic hardships across the county that pose other risks exacerbating the 30% childhood poverty rate, lack of access to remote work, and decrease in behavioral health treatment.

Malheur County Action

MCHD plans to increase our COVID-19 response in several ways detailed below that will directly address reasons for the spread of COVID-19 and hopefully allow reentry to Phase 2 while reducing the number of cases and outbreaks in the county.

One of the ways the Malheur COVID-19 Taskforce is addressing the public health needs during the pandemic is to prioritize free COVID-19 testing. The Taskforce’s drive-up test sites across Malheur County’s largest towns have been coordinated over the last four months and next week we will complete the 12th test site. After a series of long turn around times for test results when sending specimens to Quest Laboratories, we are grateful to now send specimens to the Oregon State Public Health Lab and have results quickly. Part of the surge in cases in July could be attributed to people waiting 14-19 days for test results and not staying home while potentially infectious. We are considering continuing the drive-up test sites with assistance or to convert to monthly flu vaccine Points of Distribution (PODs). With many people being treated for the flu each year, concern for health care system capacity, and the need to isolate with flu-like symptoms, the flu vaccine is an important part of our COVID-19 response heading into the fall.

Another plan is to increase the “Keep Malheur County Open” campaign in English and Spanish with direct outreach to cities, churches, and community based organizations with flyers, social media graphics, two billboards, and banners. Additionally, we will promote the “Mask Up Malheur County” Public Service Announcement and share other PSAs created by the State and CDC with local media.

On July 15, 2020 the statewide ban took effect for indoor social gatherings of 10 or more individuals and requiring face coverings for all indoor and outdoor gatherings when 6’ distance can not be maintained. That same day, the Malheur County Court approved the Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce request to support the state rules and to limit outdoor social gatherings to no more than 25 individuals. The resolution was extended for another three weeks on August 6, 2020. While we have taken greater efforts to reduce the high risk of large gatherings in Malheur County, social gatherings in Idaho, including large events like fairs and rodeos, have been a draw for people from Malheur County. We will continue to support limits to high risk gathering in requests to the County Court and in wide spread, multi-lingual messaging.

With Community Based Organizations (CBOs) beginning COVID-19 work with Local Public Health Authorities over the next month, outreach and wrap around services will be enhanced. With new perspectives and approaches, more people will hear the public health messages for COVID-19 to prevent infection and stay home and access health care when needed if sick. Wrap around services, including food box delivery, financial assistance, and other social services have slowly been utilized more in the last month and with the CBO assistance, we expect far more wrap around supports to encourage people to stay home when in isolation or quarantine. We are in negotiations with a local motel to purchase a block of 16 rooms a month at a time to set up reliable quarantine and isolation facilities for individuals who cannot isolate at home or who do not have stable housing.

Through partnership with leadership, Valley Family Health Care, a Federally Qualified Health Clinic, with locations in the three largest towns in Malheur County, will expand COVID-19 testing to individuals without symptoms who are part of groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including people with close contact with a case, who are agricultural workers,  who are over age 65, who identify as people of color, identify as having a disability, or who speak English as a second language. By testing more at a lower threshold, the positive rate should go down and asymptomatic cases could be identified.

MCHD has an Abbott test machine from the state and a policy to expand testing to people without insurance. With additional tests and staffing, we would be able to expand testing in the MCHD clinic during the week. Nursing staff is extremely limited. We do have an RN position open and although public health nursing is often not competitive with other nursing positions across the state, we hope to hire soon. We will stay in contact with the OHA about the number of tests used and needed.

MCHD will contract with an Epidemiologist to provide additional reporting and recommendations for the COVID-19 situation and share more about case trends, disproportionate risk, and a more detailed view of where or why people are impacted most. 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. MCHD is in contract negotiations with an additional public health physician to provide weekly medical consult to increase the support for health care providers and case investigators. The OHA has also provided ongoing assistance with on-call Epidemiologists and we appreciate any additional guidance at that level.

Thank you for considering the unique situation in Malheur County. We are geographically larger than nine U.S. states, have a diverse population, a small public health department, and a lack of workforce expertise. Because of the seriousness and complexity of the COVID-19 response, we rely on our state partnerships and welcome coaching, planning, staff for case investigation, public information and epidemiologist support, testing capacity, and other best practices that will help us protect and promote the health of Malheur County residents. The OHA has been helpful and responsive to these needs and we look forward to improving our situation during this time in Phase 1.


Sarah Poe, Director, and the Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce

Malheur County Returns To Phase 1 August 17th

Today, Governor Kate Brown Announced Change to Reopening Status for Malheur County. The Governor’s press release explained, “…Malheur County will move from Phase 2 back to Phase 1 status, effective Monday, August 17. Malheur County was placed on the County Watch List on July 3, and COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly in the county since then, even with additional support from state public health officials.

“Over the past month, COVID-19 cases in Malheur County have risen so much that restrictions must be put back in place or we risk further illnesses and death in the region,” said Governor Brown. “I know this change is difficult, but immediate action is necessary in order to reduce the spread of the disease and protect all those who call Malheur County home.”

Malheur County COVID-19 Information

  • Malheur County has a case rate of 266 cases per 10,000 people—the third highest in the state.
  • Over the past two weeks, the county has had a test positivity rate of 26%, which is far above the state average of approximately 5.8% for the last two weeks.
  • The county has reported an average of 15 cases per day over the past two weeks.
  • Over the past week, 55% of new cases were sporadic cases that could not be traced back to a known source.
  • One larger long-term care facility outbreak (23 cases) and a few small workplace outbreaks have been reported.
  • The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has provided assistance with messaging and masking requirements, and is also providing ongoing case investigation support for weekend coverage.

The county will remain in Phase 1 for at least 21 days. The Governor’s office, along with public health experts, will review the situation and data on a weekly basis and remain in close communication with county leaders.

In Phase 1, recreational sports, swimming pools, and events and venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys, and arcades remain closed. Non-essential local travel is allowed. Personal services businesses are allowed to operate with health and safety measures in place. Restaurants and bars are open for dine-in service until 10 p.m. with health and safety measures in place. Indoor social gatherings remain capped at 10 people as long as physical distancing is maintained, while other gatherings are limited to 50 indoors and 50 outdoors. This means that indoor gatherings, including faith-based, civic, and cultural gatherings are limited to 50 indoors and 50 outdoors.”

On August 6th, the Malheur County Court extended the resolution to restrict outdoor gatherings to 25 people, because the incidence of cases that could not be traced to a known source was increasing and the risk of transmission remains high in the county.

Of additional concern to the risk of COVID-19 in Malheur County is the number of cases in the last month in Idaho. With tens of thousands of Idahoans in Malheur County every day to work and shop, the alarming rate of cases in neighboring counties is relevant to the risk in Malheur. As of today, Idaho is reporting 26,631 cases. Oregon is reporting 22,300 cases. Idaho has approximately 42% of the population of Oregon. We urge the public and Idaho leaders to follow CDC, local hospital administration, and state public health recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19 across our shared communities.

August 13, 2020 – Number of COVID-19 cases in Idaho counties sharing a border with Malheur County:

  • Washington: 217
  • Payette: 417
  • Canyon: 6,064
  • Owyhee: 269
  • Total Cases: 6,967

We know what works to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Know how it spreads: The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Monitor Your Health Daily: Isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.
  • Stay home during full isolation or quarantine if you are sick or exposed to a known case.

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce is preparing additional steps to respond to the Phase 1 step back and to prevent the possibility of a stay home order. Find out more about Phase 1 guidance on the Governor’s website and stay up to date with daily cases at

Revised Rural Health Metrics Highlight Planned Updates to Ready Schools, Safe Learners

Oregon Department of Education August 11, 2020 News Release:

The planned updates to 2020-21 school year guidance include more flexibility for rural and remote schools to offer in-person instruction, protocols for COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, supports for special populations, athletics, and more.

As part of its planned guidance review process, the Oregon Department of Education released updates today to Ready Schools, Safe Learners, the 2020-21 school year guidance.

Ready Schools, Safe Learners, developed under the direction of Governor Brown and in collaboration with Oregon Health Authority, provides a framework for schools for the 2020-21 school year that prioritizes the health and safety of all students and staff and the families they return to each day.

Flexibility For Rural And Remote Schools

The revised guidance gives rural and remote schools more flexibility to offer in-person instruction. The new metrics require close partnership between school districts and local public health authorities to oversee a return to in-person instruction in small communities not impacted by COVID-19. The metrics also clarify limited in-person opportunities in schools required to operate through Comprehensive Distance Learning. Our priority is to return to in-person instruction as soon as it can be accomplished with stability and safety.

Other updates to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance include:

  • A new toolkit for planning for COVID-19 outbreak scenarios in schools. This toolkit is titled Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools.
  • Guidance to ensure equity and access for students served by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This guidance is titled Ensuring Equity & Access: Aligning Federal and State Requirements.
  • New additions to the Comprehensive Distance Learning guidance, including guidance for limited in-person instruction and supports, new requirements for meeting the needs of students without access to online instruction, and more. 
  • Many updates to safety protocols for On-Site and Hybrid instructional models, including clarification that face coverings are preferred over face shields, but face shields remain acceptable in some settings. (Page 33)
  • Recognizing the positive mental, physical, and emotional health benefits school sports provide for student athletes, ODE and OHA have revised athletic health and safety guidance to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while allowing for the conduct of low, medium, and non-contact sports, in line with the school sports calendar determined by the Oregon School Activities Association. At this time, full-contact sports such as wrestling, football, basketball, hockey, and cheerleading continue to be prohibited under ODE and OHA guidance
  • Updates on meal service (Page 44), transportation screening (Page 45), safety drills (Page 48) and more. 

The Comprehensive Distance Learning guidance, Ensuring Equity & Access: Aligning Federal and State Requirements guidance, and Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools toolkit are all part of Ready Schools, Safe Learners. These documents and the contents, tools, and links within them, are all linked from Ready Schools, Safe Learners, work in concert with each other and are considered part of the whole package of supports and guidance for school districts.