Southwest District Health Confirms Positive COVID-19 Case in Payette County

The Malheur County Health Department can confirm that an Ontario, Oregon business has reported an employee received a laboratory confirmed positive test for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The person who tested positive is a resident of Payette County, Southwest District Health has confirmed. The person is a female in her 20s. The individual in this case experienced mild symptoms and recovered at home.  The point of transmission is under investigation by both Southwest District Health and the Malheur County Health Department. Additional case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released.  

As of today at 3:30 p.m., there were 18 negative and 0 positive COVID-19 laboratory confirmed tests reported in Malheur County. We will continue to report daily on additional test results.

Call 211 or the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 during business hours with questions. Call your health care provider if you experience symptoms and need care.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, it is essential to self-isolate when you are sick, even at home, stay at least six feet away from other people, and follow Stay Home, Save Lives guidelines:  govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19. Additional information on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 can be found at: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html. For more Oregon specific information on COVID-19, visit healthoregon.org/coronavirus.

Call for COVID-19 Info

The Malheur County Health Department has designated staff assigned to answering questions about COVID-19. Call 541-889-7279 Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, our Peer Dispatch Line is still available 7 days a week during this crisis. Call 541-709-8539 for confidential support and resources.

Please note that we can not diagnose or provide medical advice over the phone and ask that everyone call their primary care provider if they are sick, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or need care. We can give referrals to providers if you do not have a primary care home and have OHP Application Assisters if you do not have health insurance.

Besides calling the Health Department, calling 211 is an excellent option and has additional hours. 211 is the go-to public phone number to get information about Novel Coronavirus. This program is a partnership with Oregon Health Authority. Also visit the 211 website at 211info.org.

211info Community Information Specialists answer informational COVID-19 questions about the following:

  • Symptoms
  • Prevention
  • Transmission
  • Treatment
  • Travel health
  • Animals/pets
  • Persons under investigation and/or monitoring

Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest updates on Novel Coronavirus across the United States and globally.

To speak with a 211 Community Information Specialist about Novel Coronavirus:

CALL 211 or 1-866-698-6155
TEXT your zip code to 898211 (TXT211)
EMAIL help@211info.org
HOURS 7 days per week, 8am-11pm  

Business Social Distancing Essential to Slow COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated 3/23/20 to reflect updated cases and state guidance that the distance maintained should be at least SIX feet between people.

On March 22nd, the Oregon Health Authority announced 24 new COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing the state total to 161, including a case in Grant County, bordering part of Malheur County. Five lives have been lost to COVID-19 in Oregon. Idaho reported a total of 47 cases on March 22nd, including a case in Canyon County, less than 30 miles from Ontario. With an increasing number of positive cases affecting every state in the union, the likelihood of an outbreak across Malheur County increases each day.

Malheur County is stepping up measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 with a Multi-Agency Coordination System and Incident Command, as the numbers of deaths and infections continue to grow in the state. The Malheur County Health Department has a response team dedicated to COVID-19 and is providing health resources, guidance, and technical assistance to partners while public health staff continue to provide essential services, adapting to social distancing guidelines.

All Oregon businesses and organizations have been asked to modify their practices to reduce gatherings and consider alternate approaches to work schedules and duties to reduce contact. Businesses are urged to assess their practices, implement strong social distancing measures, and close their doors temporarily if they cannot put the new guidance in place.

We remind all businesses to do the following:

  • Follow all Executive Orders of the Governor, including prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink
  • Implement social distancing protocols of at least six feet between customers ordering, waiting, or in line.
  • Follow the CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations
  • Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough hand washing.
  • Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home.
  • Create and follow an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan. For assistance, review the CDC Guidance for Businesses.

Our highest priority is the health and safety of our community. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, to protect Malheur County residents who are at highest risk for contracting the disease, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity, it is necessary for every single person to follow social distancing and community mitigation measures.

For more information on COVID-19:

Malheur County Court Signs Emergency Declaration

This morning, County Commissioners Larry Wilson, Don Hodge, and Judge Dan Joyce signed a Declaration of Emergency for Malheur County in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We need to be as prepared as possible to help keep our community safe,” said Judge Dan Joyce. “This emergency declaration will help us to best serve our residents. We appreciate the public working with us to protect public health and minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

The declaration specifically authorizes the County to:

  • Seek state and federal assistance and potential reimbursement for local funds spent on COVID-19 response;
  • Use streamlined processes for purchasing goods and services as allowed under Oregon law during emergency situations; and
  • Follow emergency plans and procedures as may be needed to protect the public health.

In addition, the County’s emergency operations center (EOC) has been partially activated to assist the Health Department with multi-agency coordination, public information and community outreach. The activation also provides a venue for mobilizing resources and developing plans across multiple Malheur County departments.

“The Emergency Declaration and EOC will help us support County staff, first responders, and healthcare partners so we can quickly respond and utilize all available resources to best protect the health of our community,” said Malheur County Emergency Manager Rich Harriman.

Malheur County employees will remain on the job and working to fulfill the obligations of the County. All departments are implementing recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority, such as increased cleaning, social distancing, and teleconferencing where possible. Sick employees have been asked to stay home.

Members of the public who need to access County offices are encouraged to conduct as much business as possible online, by phone, or by mail. Appointments can be made for necessary and time-sensitive business that cannot be handled over the phone, internet or through the mail. Members of the public are asked to please call the respective office first so that staff can provide assistance over the phone and online and to request an appointment if necessary. Measures will be taken to enhance social distancing and minimize the number of visitors in our offices at one time. Public appointments and screening procedures are subject to change due to the rapidly-changing nature of the COVID-19 outbreak. Updated information particular to each office can be found on the County website at malheurco.org.

“The Malheur County Court is committed to making every effort to stop and prevent the spread of the virus to our citizens,” said Commissioner Don Hodge. “We encourage everyone to limit their contacts in the community in the days ahead and conduct as much business as possible online, by phone, or through the mail.”

There are 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malheur County at this time. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management has a visual dashboard for the COVID-19 situation across the state HERE.

The Malheur County Health Department is working closely with the Oregon Health Authority, local emergency management, Malheur County Jail, Environmental Health, and medical providers to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find up to date numbers on cases of COVID-19 in Oregon by calling 211 or visiting healthoregon.org/coronavirus.

Updated Mitigation Measures Released

In response to Governor Brown and President Trump’s press conferences and updated guidance announced today, we have released new Malheur County Health Department Community Mitigation Recommendations. We hope this document is a helpful tool to everyone in Malheur County, our partners, and neighbors. Thank you to everyone who is working so hard to keep their families and those most vulnerable in our community safe.

MCHD COVID-19 Update

The Malheur County Health Department is working closely with state and community partners to prevent and prepare for the spread of Novel Coronavirus Updates (COVID-19).

For the Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 Updates, please visit: healthoregon.org/coronavirus. There are Frequently Asked Questions, information on cases, videos, and fact sheets in multiple languages.

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management has a visual dashboard for the COVID-19 situation across the state HERE.

Read the Oregon Department of Education COVID-19 Resources HERE, including the latest press release “Governor Kate Brown Announces Statewide School Closure for Students in Oregon from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31.” Read all of Governor Brown’s press releases HERE.

At this time, there are still no laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in Malheur County, although we are preparing for the likely possibility that the virus will spread. We can slow the spread by following social distancing measures and if everyone takes steps to prevent illness.

New COVID-19 Social Distancing Measures in Place

Today Governor Kate Brown ordered the implementation of community social distancing measures, recommending cancellation of events hosting more than 10 persons in high risk populations. High risk populations include older adults and those with underlying health conditions, as well as individuals without stable housing. Underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of serious COVID-19 for individuals of any age.  

The Governor has also ordered the implementation of community social distancing measures prohibiting large gatherings. This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. A mass gathering is a planned or spontaneous event with 250 or more people in attendance, such as concerts, festivals, conferences, worship services, and sporting events, and any similar events or activities.

An event is defined as any gathering in a space in which a distance of at least three feet between individuals cannot be maintained. This recommendation applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. This does not apply to school attendance, businesses, grocery and retail stores. Organizers will need to modify, postpone, or cancel events that meet the above criteria through at least April 8, 2020. Further guidance will be available before that date.

Older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease) are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. People who need non-emergency medical care should call their health care provider before showing up at a clinic.

Detailed guidance for Community and Faith-based Organizations, Employers, Schools, Healthcare Providers, Families and more are available under “COVID-19 Resources” on the OHA website: healthoregon.org/coronavirus.

Spring Into Wellness events cancelled

With more positive cases in Oregon (21 total), we must follow state guidance for social distancing measures and cancel mass gatherings and non-essential meetings. We will be sharing a press release with further details later today.

Malheur LCAC Spring Into Wellness events scheduled for Adrian (3/12), Jordan Valley (3/17), and Nyssa (3/19) are cancelled and will be rescheduled for the fall.

People at Higher Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19

The spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, has sown fear and anxiety. While this in an epidemic we are taking very seriously and the virus can be deadly, the vast majority of those infected so far have only mild symptoms and make full recoveries. It is important to know the facts and not exaggerate the risks. The most important thing we can do as a community is prevention and to protect those who are at higher risk if they were to contract COVID-19.

Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

A large study of 44,672 coronavirus cases confirmed in China showed that 81% of cases were mild, 14% were severe and 5% were critical. The number of mild cases is likely much higher because people with mild cases may not show any symptoms and not seek medical care but still transmit the virus. The number of mild cases, though, creates its own complications for curbing the virus’s spread. Those with mild or no symptoms may not know they have contracted the virus, or may pass it off as a seasonal cold. They may then continue in their daily lives — traveling, kissing, coming into close contact with others — and spread the virus without anyone knowing. “In this manner, a virus that poses a low health threat on the individual level can pose a high risk on the population level,” a group of five scientists wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. (As reported 2/27/2020 in the New York Times.)

For this reason, it is especially important that people stay home when they show mild symptoms, which are nearly indistinguishable from the common cold or seasonal flu. Most severe cases of COVID-19 affect older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions. If COVID-19 spreads to Malheur County, it is the responsibility of everyone to limit contact, wash hands frequently, and prevent the spread to those who are most vulnerable to a severe or critical case.  

If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease. Follow the recommendations from the CDC listed below.

If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on supplies.
    • Contact your healthcare provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.
    • If you cannot get extra medications, consider using mail-order for medications.
    • Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
    • Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • Take everyday preventive actions
    • Clean your hands often
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
    • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
    • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
    • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
    • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
    • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
    • Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.
  • If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people to further reduce your risk of being exposed to this new virus.
    • Stay home as much as possible.
    • Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks

New State COVID-19 Information

Over the weekend, the Oregon Health Authority added seven new presumptive positive cases to Oregon’s COVID-19 count and issued COVID-19 guidance to Oregon schools and universities.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has an official COVID-19 page. The individual risk in Idaho is low at this time and there have been no positive cases in the state. Visit coronavirus.idaho.gov for more information.

We encourage everyone to continue monitoring the OHA Situation in Oregon and follow the facts and good prevention.