Current Wildfire Information

Follow the Malheur County Emergency Management FB page for updates and state resources below.

Wildfires in Oregon

Current Fire Information

Current wildfire information can be found on the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODF) Wildfire blog, the ODF Fire Statistics Database, or the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) active large fires map.

During fire season, the current fire season map (see top of this post) will show active large fires ODF is tracking in the state and the locations of year-to-date lightning and human-caused fires (statistical fires where ODF is the primary protection agency).

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

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Parents are understandably nervous about taking their children and teens to their doctors’ offices right now. As a result, children in Oregon are falling behind on their childhood vaccinations.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and we want to work with families to ensure this pandemic is not followed by an increase in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases or a preventable outbreak. Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is taking several precautions in our office to provide a safer environment for all clients. We can do drive up vaccines, when requested. Appointment are required for immunizations. Please call 541-889-7279 to schedule. MCHD offers immunizations for all ages and has several free and low cost programs.

With so many people out of work and without health insurance, it’s important to know you can still keep your child safe. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program offers free vaccines to families who cannot afford to pay for their children’s vaccines.

If your children need health insurance, they may be eligible for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). It is open to all children and teens younger than 19, regardless of immigration status, who meet income and other criteria. MCHD OHP Application Assisters can help you fill out an application.

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.

Decrease in COVID-19 hospitalization reporting

Sharing this important message from the Oregon Health Alert Network to healthcare facilities and providers:

In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, it is extremely important that health care facilities and health care providers comply with their COVID-19 reporting requirements. The Oregon Health Authority has observed a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalization reporting. This is a concerning trend, as we cannot take appropriate action to respond to this epidemic without your assistance and cooperation. Please review the COVID-19 reporting requirements below. Thank you, in advance, for your collaboration.

Health care facilities and health care providers are required, by law, to report the following within 24 hours (including weekends and holidays):

  • All human cases of COVID-19 to the local public health administrator. When local public health administrators cannot be reached within the specified time limit, reports shall be made directly to the Oregon Health Authority.
  • All human cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
  • Hospitalization of any individual with COVID-19, on or after March 9, 2020, whether or not the case was previously reported.
  • Deaths of any individual due to COVID-19, on or after March 9, 2020, whether or not the case was previously reported.

In addition, licensed laboratories are required to report:

  • All test results indicative of and specific for COVID-19 within 24 hours (including weekends and holidays).
  • All negative test results for COVID-19 within one local public health authority working day.

Health care providers must report this information in one of two ways, in order of preference:

WIC Farmers Market

Don’t miss the WIC Farmers Market August 11-12 outside the Health Department 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario.

Get your WIC Farm Direct checks! If you are current on WIC, you may be eligible to receive $28 worth of WIC Farm Direct checks to use with local farmers at the Farmers Market or their farm stands.

Interested in WIC?

  • Do you live in Oregon?
  • Are you pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding woman or a child under 5 years old?
  • Are you receiving TANF, SNAP or the Oregon Health Plan or meet WIC income guidelines? Call Malheur County WIC at (541)889-7279 to make an appointment!

COVID-19 Trends

There were 106 new COVID-19 cases reported in Malheur County in the last week. The rate of new cases has been increasing again over the past couple weeks. The below graph shows the rate of new cases over 19 weeks, since our first lab-confirmed positive case was reported the week of March 29th. These are only cases showing current, active infections.

As increasing numbers of Oregonians, including those in Malheur, have tested positive for COVID-19, many have wondered if that’s simply due to more testing. Although testing has increased, the positive test rate, which shows the prevalence of the virus, has increased. By offering tests to more and more people at a lower threshold, meaning people with fewer or no symptoms are included in testing, the positive test rate should go down as the number of tests increases. Last week, 415 COVID-19 tests were reported in Malheur County and the overall positive test rate went up to 18.5%. The takeaway is that COVID-19 is spreading more rampantly and we are not doing enough testing to keep up with the increasing infections. Of all tests reported in Oregon through August 1, 2020, the statewide average is a 4.4% positive rate.

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

COVID-19 Situation Update

COVID-19 cases are increasing in Malheur County. Last week we saw an uptrend in cases of 23% from the week before and 66% of cases could not be traced to a known source, meaning we have significant community spread among people who have not been identified as positive. As of today, there are 768 cases, with only 409 of those considered recovered. To date, 18.3% of all COVID-19 tests reported have been positive, far over the 5% goal. Two people have died this week, one male in his 80s at home and one male in his 40s at a Boise area hospital, bringing the death total associated with COVID-19 to 14. Our thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one and those who are caring for someone who is sick. We have many people under quarantine at this time because of close contact with a known case and appreciate the sacrifices they make to stay home and prevent the spread of this virus to more people.

Check out this five-video series on Quarantine 101. MCHD Nursing Supervisor, Rebecca Stricker is interviewed by the Malheur Enterprise. The videos are also available with Spanish subtitles here.   

We are hiring! Visit the Malheur County employment website for links to applications for an Office Assistant and a Registered Nurse.

For more frequent updates, follow us by signing up for emails in the right side bar and on Facebook at

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Weekly Update

  • Full report available at
  • Highlights
    • Reported signs and symptoms for all confirmed cases statewide
      • Cough 51.1%
      • Headache 47.4%
      • Muscle aches 44.3%
      • Loss of smell 35.2%
    • Malheur County Outbreaks (reporting cases of Malheur County Residents only)
      • Brookdale Assisted Living: 37 cases, 5 deaths
      • Dorian Place Assisted Living: 17 cases, 2 deaths
      • Snake River Correctional Institution: 132 cases
      • The Kraft Heinz Company: 11 cases
      • Walmart: 7 cases
      • Oregon Child Development: 6 cases
    • Cases by ZIP code (rate is cases per 10,000)
      • 97913: Nyssa: 94 cases, rate 170.1
      • 97914: Ontario: 428 cases, rate 222.9
      • 97918: Vale: 40 cases, rate 88.2

Drive Up Test Sites

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce is offering COVID-19 testing to individuals who live or work in Malheur County, have symptoms, or are part of groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including people with close contact with a case, people of color, people with a disability, people who speak English as a second language, and first responders.

The next drive up testing sites are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Nyssa: Wednesday, August 12th
    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 1309 Park Ave, Nyssa
  • Vale: Wednesday, August 19th
    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 135 Yakima St S, Vale

School Health and Safety Metrics

Governor Brown and leaders from OHA and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced new guidance about schools and how they might operate this fall. There is no simple, statewide answer for every school in Oregon. It is important to get students back to class, but how we do that depends on a number of important factors. The community metrics for reopening. Oregon public health officials have developed evidence-based metrics to help school boards and school districts make decisions about how they can safely reopen schools. Visit ODE’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners web page for more information. At this time, no K-12 school in Malheur County qualifies to open for in person instruction. We expect new guidance to be released next Tuesday, August 11th.

Masks and Face Coverings

In Oregon, face coverings are required statewide, for all people who are five (5) and over in indoor spaces open to the public, and outdoors when at least six (6) feet of distance cannot be maintained between others outside of an individual’s household. Face coverings are also now required when exercising indoors, plus outdoors when a physical distance of at least six (6) feet of distance cannot be maintained. OHA has published a new webpage on face coverings and masks.

Some people are unable to wear face coverings for medical reasons. When a person with a disability is unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons, they should be offered a reasonable accommodation.  Medical exemptions, though, are not permitted. Reasonable accommodation examples may include, a grocery store may offer personal shopping for someone who cannot wear a face mask, or a medical appointment may be conducted over the telephone.

August COVID-19 Drive-Up Testing Sites

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce is offering free COVID-19 testing to individuals who meet specific criteria at three testing sites in August in Ontario, Nyssa, and Vale. The events will conclude twelve testing sites coordinated by the Taskforce. Results from testing were increasingly delayed in June and July and the Taskforce will now send specimens to the Oregon State Public Health Lab and expect a turnaround of five to seven days.

Testing Site Opportunities

  • Ontario: Wednesday, August 5th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • Malheur County Fairgrounds 795 NW 9th St, Ontario
  • Nyssa: Wednesday, August 12th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • LDS Church 1309 Park Ave, Nyssa
  • Vale: Wednesday, August 19th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • LDS Church 135 Yakima St. S., Vale


Testing at the Malheur Drive-Up Testing Sites is only for individuals who live or work in Malheur County. A person qualifies for testing if they have symptoms or if they identify as part of a group disproportionately affected by COVID-19.


  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Without symptoms, but part of following groups:

  • Close contacts of a person with COVID-19
  • People exposed to COVID-19 in congregate setting
  • Migrant/seasonal agricultural workers upon arrival in Oregon
  • People who identify as Black, African-American, Latino, Latina, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander
  • People who identify as having a disability
  • People whose first language is not English
  • First Responders

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.


Upon arrival at the testing site, individuals will be required to remain in their vehicles at all times. Each driver should drive cautiously and follow traffic directions. You will be required to complete a screening form, which includes where you live and work, high risk factors, and a release of liability. All forms and service available in English and Spanish. A walk-up option will be available and marked for individuals without transportation.

Personnel in full medical protective gear will use a swab to obtain the necessary sample from the individual’s nose. If you do not meet the testing criteria, you will be diverted back to your residence to monitor symptoms and contact your local healthcare provider.

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