Risk level report confirms downward trend in cases, test positivity rates in Malheur County

Today’s Risk Level Metrics: Schools and Counties report, posted weekly on the Oregon Health Authority website, shows a continuing decline in both new cases of COVID-19 and test positivity rate in Malheur County. During the two-week period from Jan. 31 to Feb. 13, the county recorded 41 new cases and a test positivity rate of 3.9%. The rate of cases was 128 per 100,000 people.

Today’s report was issued during a “warning week,” an opportunity for Oregon counties to prepare for the possibility that they might move to a different level of the state’s risk level system, based on data collected over a two-week period. Changes in risk level occur during “movement weeks.” Today’s report will not result in a change in Malheur County’s risk level this week; however, continuing declines in new case counts and test positivity rates would enable the county to move out of the Extreme Risk level on Friday, Feb. 26.

“With fewer COVID-19 cases and sufficient recent testing, people in Malheur County should feel safer from the risk of coronavirus exposure. We need to continue testing and following precautions to maintain this progress, especially with new virus variants that could increase transmission if we don’t prevent spread,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

To date, four cases of infection by a COVID-19 variant have been identified in Oregon. All four cases involve the UK (B.1.1.7) variant. This and two other variants – Brazilian (P.1) and South African (B.1.351) – seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19, according to Centers for Disease Control.

For more information on Malheur County COVID-19 data, visit our COVID-19 Cases page.

Malheur County’s declining new COVID-19 case counts bring optimism

For the past week, Oregon’s daily COVID-19 update has shown a marked drop in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Malheur County. There have been just three new cases since Sunday and three days this week, including today, with no new cases reported. The dramatic dip in numbers is encouraging, but people are advised to be optimistically cautious: Continue to follow safety guidelines, and get tested if you have symptoms or believe there is a chance you might have been exposed.

“We are thankful to everyone in the county for helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding gatherings, wearing face coverings, and staying home when sick or exposed to a positive case,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “These numbers are encouraging, but we need to continue to do our part to protect our families and our community. We also need increased testing to keep our positivity rate down while new case numbers drop.”

Today, Malheur County remained at the Extreme Risk level of the state’s updated county risk assessment, based on new case counts from Jan. 24 to Feb. 6. Lower case counts could help Malheur County drop into a lower risk level, but only if the test positivity rate remains below 10%. It is currently at 7.7%, but the rate of testing has continued to decline over time.

“Frequent and continued testing helps us to not only reduce the spread of the virus, particularly by those who are asymptomatic, but also keep test positivity rates down. We need positivity rates and new case counts to remain low so that we can move out of Extreme Risk, get our county businesses back up and running, and our lives back to normal,” Poe said.

The next update of county risk levels will occur on Feb. 26 and be based on data from Feb. 7 through Feb. 20.

Malheur County’s declining new case numbers might be partly attributable to local vaccination efforts, Poe said. To date, more than 5,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in the county, although some of them are not counted toward the state’s total because they were given to people who work in the county but live in Idaho. That number includes first and second doses. Statewide, more than 649,000 doses of vaccine – Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech – have been distributed.

As of today, COVID-19 has infected a reported 3,299 Malheur County residents and claimed the lives of 56.

MCHD offers free drive-up COVID-19 testing by appointment four days a week at the MCHD office:

  • Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., 1-3 p.m.

For an appointment or more information, call 541-889-7279.

Testing is also available at Rite Aid and through several health care providers, including Valley Family Health Care and Snake River Pediatrics.

For more information on Malheur County COVID-19 data, visit https://malheurhealth,org/covid-19-cases