COVID-19 testing and vaccination event continues

Throughout September and October, the Malheur County Incident Command System will be hosting COVID-19 testing and vaccination events every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St. in Ontario. Two hundred seventy eight people were tested at the Aug. 31 event, with 30 Malheur County residents testing positive. For the week ending Aug. 22, Malheur County’s test positivity rate was 18.6 percent, which shows significant community spread. In order to reduce the test positivity rate, more people need to get tested.

Testing and vaccination clinics continue through October

The Malheur County Incident Command System Team is hosting a free testing and vaccination event every Tuesday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds. Being tested for COVID-19, even if you have no symptoms, is the best way to slow the spread in our community. The event is held at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., in Ontario.

First Presumptive Human Case of West Nile Virus in Malheur County

The Malheur County Health Department has announced that an adult living in the Ontario area has tested positive for West  Nile virus – the first presumptive human case of the virus in Malheur County this year.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes which have been infected by feeding on birds which have the virus. In rare instances, the virus may be spread from person to person through organ donation, blood transfusion, breastfeeding, or from pregnant mother to fetus.

The disease affects the nervous system,  and up to 80 percent of people who are infected will not display any signs of illness at all. Those who have underlying health conditions, however, could become seriously ill.

West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999, and the number of Oregonians infected with the virus fluctuates every season.

While most people do not develop symptoms from this virus, some people who develop illness may experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches; occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands may be noticed. These symptoms may last a few days or as long as several weeks. Those who are older than 50 or have immunocompromised conditions can become seriously ill. Seek medical attention and testing if you develop symptoms compatible with West Nile virus infection.  

People who are concerned about mosquitoes should cover up exposed skin and use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions. Residents are also urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for areas of high mosquito activity, especially standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes, as will clogged rain gutters or drain pipes.

For additional information on West Nile virus, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

Free Covid-19 Testing and Vaccination Events Scheduled

Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 31, Malheur County’s Incident Command System and the Oregon Health Authority will team up to provide a weekly COVID-19 testing and vaccination site in Ontario.

The drive-through events will take place every Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the fairgrounds. People will be able to access testing, vaccinations, or both. It is important to note that test results will take approximately 15 minutes. Only people whose tests are positive will be contacted. People receiving vaccinations will be asked to wait 15 minutes before departing the area. Testing is for people of all ages, and vaccinations can be accessed by people age 12 and older.

Follow signage when you arrive at the fairground, entry will be from the south entrance. People who wish to receive testing or vaccination services are asked not to leave their vehicle during the process. All three vaccines will be available.

Local Health Providers Pen Letter to Community

Letter to our community who we care for and genuinely care about.

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Your local healthcare team cares immensely about the health and safety of our patients.  We believe it is important to show where we stand on the COVID-19 crisis in our community.  It is difficult for anyone to wade through the vast amount of data on COVID-19 and to know which sources to believe.  As your trusted experts, we wholeheartedly support the following:

  • We welcome an open and honest discussion about the risks & benefits of the COVID 19 vaccines. 
  • In general, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks of acquiring and spreading SARs CoV-2. 
  • Immunization protects you from severe illness, hospitalization, and death. 
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the chances of spread to others.

Our ethical obligation is to provide the best care based on scientific data from reliable sources.  We do not take our responsibility lightly and have committed our careers to benefit the health and wellbeing of others. 

We can significantly reduce the impact of this pandemic if we work together to learn the facts and act accordingly.  We sincerely appreciate the bravery and courage of our neighbors, friends, and community who have practiced social distancing, masking, and obtained their COVID-19 vaccine.  With your help, we can avoid further harm to our loved ones. 

Talk to your health care provider and discuss what is right for you.

  • Brad Barlow, MD
  • Sage Benintendi Stringer, MPAS, PA-C
  • Christina Benson, PA-C
  • Matea Berria, MSPAS, PA-C
  • Matthew Berria, PhD, PA-C
  • David Brauer, MD
  • Paola D’Aleman, MD
  • Michelle DeVoe, DO, FAAP
  • Sandra Dunbrasky, MD, FAAP
  • Patricia Engel, MD
  • Leslie Filler, DNP, APRN, FNP-C
  • Stephanie Geddes, PharmD
  • Aaron Gopp, MSN, CRNA
  • Sean Hackett, MS, PA-C
  • Brook Hally, PharmD
  • Jerrimi Helmick, FNP
  • Markus Hess, PharmD
  • Nicole Heywood, PA-C
  • Mary James, MPAS, PA-C
  • Trenton Jenks, PharmD, BCGP
  • Raquel Johnson, NP
  • Daniel Jones, DO
  • Brian Kitamura, MD
  • Judd Knudsen, RPh
  • Alex Landevarde, PharmD
  • Sarah Laiosa, DO
  • Chelsie Lewis, FNP
  • Kailey Meskill, MPAS, PA-C
  • Daisy Miller, DO
  • Kayla Nagy, MPAS, PA-C
  • Judy Norris, MSN, FNP-BC
  • James Roth, MD
  • Emily Russell, PA-C
  • Eric Rysenga, MD
  • Julie Rysenga, MD
  • Amanda Silue, PA-C
  • Frank Spokas, MD
  • MariSue Susman, PNP
  • Barbara Tesnohlidek, MD
  • Tony Tesnohlidek, MD
  • Jennifer Tolman, PharmD
  • Michael Twomey, MD

Masks recommended outdoors beginning Friday

The Most Face-Friendly Mask We've Tested Is Half Off

As Covid continues to surge through Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has announced an outdoor mask requirement beginning Friday, Aug. 27. Adults and children over 5 will be asked to wear masks in outdoor settings where people are close to each other, unless they are actively eating or drinking, and people are encouraged to social distance from each other. Brown also encouraged people to wear masks when visiting people in their homes and social distance cannot be maintained.

Shortages of hospital beds, equipment, supplies and staff have caused Brown to act to stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

People will need to wear masks regardless of whether they are vaccinated. Although COVID vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death, public health officials are concerned about evidence that fully vaccinated people can still become infected and spread COVID to others, Brown said.

“The delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic,” the governor said in a news release, noting that Oregon has experienced record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations so far in the ongoing delta-fueled wave. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”

In Malheur County, cases are growing exponentially week after week, with 113 cases recorded in the week ending Aug. 20, “This is a frustrating situation for everyone,” said Malheur County Health Department PIO Angie Sillonis. “There are steps we can all take to stop the spread of this virus. The first is to avoid large gatherings, the second is to wear masks when we’re around other people, and the third is to get vaccinated,” she said.

 “Vaccination is the best way to get back to living our lives as we did before Covid,” Sillonis said. Currently, 40 percent of eligible Malheur County residents are vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. That number needs to be higher than 80 percent to help keep our fellow community members safe, she added.

There are exceptions to the requirement, which align with the recent statewide indoor mask requirement. It does not apply to:

  • Children under 5
  • Individuals who are actively eating, drinking or sleeping, as well as individuals living outdoors
  • People playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask, such as swimming
  • Individuals delivering a speech or performing, such as with outdoor music or theater
  • Mask requirements for K-12 schools will fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events and gatherings of general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule
  • Entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law

Pfizer vaccine receives full FDA approval

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The Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA announced Monday morning.

“We hope full approval of the vaccine will instill more confidence in anyone who has been hesitant about receiving the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine. This means the Pfizer vaccine has the same approval as the rest of the standard vaccines on the market which we rely on to keep ourselves protected from other diseases,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department Director.

This is the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus to receive full approval, though it is still under emergency use authorization for adolescents age 12-15. Even without full approval, Poe said, “the great news is that Pfizer is available to anyone age 12 and up and can be received at the same time as other vaccines. Now is the time to act as cases are going up and kids are going back to school.”

The vaccine has been under an EUA since Dec. 11, 2020 for individuals age 16 and older, but the full approval comes from expanded safety and efficacy data released by the manufacturer this April. An analysis of 927 confirmed cases found that the vaccine had 91.3 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease up through six months after the second dose. In addition, the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease, as defined by the CDC, Pfizer said.

The vaccine will be marketed as Comirnaty. The Pfizer vaccine uses mRNA technology, and does not contain live virus.

 “Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and research, in a statement.

 “I read an article about a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation which said 31 percent of unvaccinated people would be more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine once one of them received full approval from the FDA,” said Health Department Nursing Supervisor Rebecca Stricker. “My hope is that this approval will give people the confidence they need to get the vaccine. I would give anything to put an end to this pandemic, and if this change encourages people to get vaccinated, we are that much closer to keeping our public safe and healthy.” In Malheur County, most physician’s offices and clinics provide vaccines, so call your provider to schedule an appointment. Vaccines are also available at the Health Department. To schedule an appointment, call 541-889-7279.

Health care workers, K-12 education staff will need to be vaccinated

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Two new vaccination measures intended to keep Oregonians safe were announced Thursday by Gov. Kate Brown. The measures will address Oregon’s hospital crisis caused by the Delta variant surge, and to help keep Oregon students safe and minimize disruptions to in-person instruction.

  • Oregon’s vaccination requirement for health care workers will no longer have a testing alternative. Health care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later.
  • All teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later.

“The Delta variant has put enormous pressure on our health systems, and health care workers are being stretched to their absolute limits providing life-saving treatment for the patients in their care,” said Brown. “I am devoting all available resources to help, and we must proactively implement solutions right now. We need every single frontline health care worker healthy and available to treat patients.”

In both cases, health care workers and educators who are not yet vaccinated are urged to speak with their doctor or primary care provider to get their remaining questions about vaccination answered immediately, so they can begin the vaccination process in time to meet the new requirements. In the case of educators, the Governor outlined the importance of masks and staff vaccinations to protect students: because children under 12 are still not yet eligible for vaccination, masks are a critical mitigation measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ensuring all the adults around students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 adds another layer of protection for students as well.

“Our kids need to be in the classroom full-time, five days a week, and we have to do everything we can to make that happen,” said Brown. “While we are still learning about the Delta variant, we know from previous experience that when schools open with safety measures in place, the risk of transmission is low. That’s why I’ve directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue a rule requiring all teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools to be fully vaccinated.”

The Governor also outlined the steps Oregon is taking to support hospitals during the ongoing surge in cases and hospitalizations, including deploying the National Guard and nurse strike teams, establishing temporary decompression units to free up bed space, and removing barriers to discharging patients who no longer require hospital-level care. Oregon has also made requests to FEMA and the President for additional federal resources and support. The Governor announced she has formed a Hospital Crisis Prevention and Response group consisting of health care stakeholders to problem solve in real time and suggest new measures to aid health care workers and hospitals during the ongoing hospital crisis.

As of Wednesday, Malheur County is averaging 15 new cases of COVID-19 every day, with a test positivity rate of 10.7 percent. Almost 40 percent of Malheur County’s eligible population has been vaccinated against the virus, and 19 people are being vaccinated every day.


CDC strengthens COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for pregnant people

If you’re pregnant you may be wondering whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently strengthened its vaccine recommendation for pregnant people.  

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people ages 12 and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. 

Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 than people who are not pregnant. Fortunately, severe illness from COVID-19 during pregnancy can be avoided by getting fully vaccinated.  In recent weeks, infections among those who are pregnant have been increasing. With the combination of low rates of vaccinations in pregnant people, the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, and the higher risk of complications from COVID-19 during pregnancy —it’s important to protect yourself if you are pregnant.  

To read more about COVID-19 vaccination before or during pregnancy, visit the Oregon Vaccine News blog

Pregnant person with black shirt, black medium length hair, black shoes, white pants and two speech bubbles.

Vaccine clinic Thursday in Nyssa

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'DON'T WAIT VACCINES ARE HERE AGES 12 & OLDER AUGUST 19 5 PM 8 PM Nyssa High School 824 Adrian Blvd, Nyssa, OR VALLEY Family Health Care Valley Family Health Care is offering the Pfizer Vaccine. No Appointment Necessary'
May be an image of 1 person and text that says '000 NO ESPERES LAS VACUNAS ESTAN AQUÍ EDADES 12 Y MAYORES AGOSTO 19 5 PM -8 PM Nyssa High School 824 Adrian Blvd, Nyssa, OR Valley Family Health Care está ofreciendo la vacuna Pfizer. VALLEY Family Health Care Conduce/Camine Hacia Mac No Se Necesita Cita Previa'

Valley Family Health Care will provide COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone over 12 Thursday, Aug. 19, at Nyssa High School, 824 Adrian Blvd., in Nyssa. As cases are surging and hospital beds are filling throughout Eastern Oregon, it is more important than ever that people consider vaccination.