OHA launches website, hotline, for COVID-19-positive people

Wednesday, the Oregon Health Authority launched a new website (oregon.gov/positivecovidtest) that includes what to do if you test positive for COVID-19, if you have been exposed, and how to seek resources if you’re isolating at home and need support.

The new COVID-19 Case Support Hotline at 866-917-8881 will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (times are Mountain Time).

The state is also moving to an “opt-in” model for investigating some COVID-19 cases. People can report their positive at-home test result through the online survey linked at oregon.gov/positivecovidtest, or get help completing the survey through the hotline.

While we don’t require individuals to report their at-home test results, we highly recommend people to do so, and to let close contacts know about potential exposure. Hospitals, health care providers, labs and local public health authorities are required to report test results.

In Malheur County, this means people with a positive test result may not hear from a case investigator. Because of the surge in cases, and the new guidance from OHA, Malheur County is prioritizing cases of people who are at high risk, or live or work in high-risk settings, as described below.

Today’s launch follows an OHA decision to revise guidelines for investigating COVID-19 cases to focus less on interviewing individual cases and conducting contact tracing, and more on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as those in congregate care, health care, K-12 education and food chain industries.

To learn more, visit our blog: http://covidblog.oregon.gov/test-positive-new-website…/

COVID-19 Support Hotline. 866-917-8881. Tested positive for COVID-19? Isolate immediately. If you have questions or need support, call the hotline. A Support Team member can help you answer questions about isolation or quarantine, how to tell close contacts about potential COVID-19 exposure, information about resources to help during isolation and help filling out the online case survey. Spanish-speaking staff and interpreters are available if you don't speak English.

Children as young as 12 authorized to receive Pfizer booster

On Jan. 6, the Western States Scientific Review Workgroup joined the CDC in recommending new guidelines for the Pfizer vaccine.

The new guidance, which takes effect in Oregon immediately, says:

  • Children ages 12-15 can now get a Pfizer booster at least five months after their second dose.
  • The wait time for a booster dose has been shortened to at least five months after receiving their initial series of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Immunocompromised children ages 5-11 can now receive a third primary series dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It’s more important than ever to get boosted. It is vital in protecting you against severe cases of COVID-19, especially with the Omicron variant spreading so quickly. With just the primary series of vaccines, you’re only 35% protected from Omicron. With a booster, that protection level jumps up to 75%. Boosters take only two to three days to strengthen your immune response.

Where to get a COVID-19 booster

  • if you have a doctor, ask them first
  • visit the Malheur County Health Department any Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no appointment needed)
  • Contact a local pharmacy to schedule an appointment
  • Contact a local medical clinic to schedule an appointment
  • Text ORCOVID to 898211 (English and Spanish) or email ORCOVID@211info.org
  • Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155, toll-free, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain Time) daily, including holidays
  • Or you can use the vaccine locator tool on OHA’s website, found here.

Case counts rising again

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Malheur County, and the Health Department urges everyone to be mindful of others as we go about our business, by wearing masks in indoor public spaces, frequent handwashing, get tested at the first sign of symptoms and get vaccinated.

To be tested for COVID-19, contact your primary care physician, your local clinic or pharmacy, or you may be able to find an at-home test in a pharmacy – contact your local pharmacy to ask about availability. Testing sites may be found at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-oha-covid-19-testing and vaccine sites may be found at https://getvaccinated.oregon.gov. If you have a child who attends a Malheur County school and has symptoms or was exposed to the positive case at school, contact their school, which may have free testing available.

COVID-19 vaccinations are available at local physician’s offices and clinics, pharmacies, the Health Department, and at various vaccine events throughout the county. To stay up-to-date on vaccine events, keep an eye on the MCHD calendar of events.

Three vaccination events coming soon

There are three COVID-19 vaccination events coming in the next few days in Malheur County – two in Nyssa and one in Vale.

Friday, Dec. 17, at Vale City Hall, 150 A St. E, Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living will host a vaccine clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This event will be for people 18 and older, and will feature all doses of Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, as well as high and regular dose influenza vaccines and the flu mist. Flyers for the event are in English and Spanish.

Saturday, Dec. 18, COVID-19 vaccines will be given by Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living for people ages 5 and older at the Tex-Mex Express, 400 Thunderegg Blvd. in Nyssa from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. All three brands of vaccine will be available. Flyers for the event in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, Dec. 21, all three COVID-19 vaccines, as well as flu vaccines, will be available at the Nyssa Middle School, cafeteria, 101 S. 11th St., from 3-5 p.m. This event is hosted by the Malheur County Health Department, and is for anyone 5 and older. Look here for flyers in English and Spanish.

Rides to vaccine events can be accessed by calling 541-889-3119.

Pfizer boosters available for ages 16 to 17

Following the FDA, CDC and Western States Scientific Safety Review recommendation to expand Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccine eligibility to people 16-17 years who have completed their primary vaccination series, Malheur County Health Department will begin offering the boosters at the drive-through vaccine clinic Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021 at the Ontario Airport firehouse from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Individuals ages 16 and older who received the Pfizer vaccine should receive a booster dose after at least six months.

A booster is a vaccine dose given to a person whose immune response from the primary vaccine series has waned over time. Booster doses help people maintain strong immunity to disease longer. The first vaccine series builds up the immune system to make the antibodies needed to fight the disease. Over time, the immune response weakens. A booster dose stimulates the initial response and tends to result in higher antibody levels that help people maintain their immunity longer.

“The scientists, medical experts and health officials who reviewed studies on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have determined that the benefits provided by a booster merit their use for this group,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist.  “We already know that protection can wane over time, and the boosters will continue to provide younger Oregonians continued protection, just as boosters are doing for Oregonians 18 years and older.”

There are an estimated 100,000 Oregonians ages 16 and 17. Of this group, approximately 25,000 are now eligible for boosters following today’s approvals. Another 25,000 persons in this age group will be eligible by the end of this month, and up to 7,000 persons who are 16 and 17 years of age will become eligible for boosters through first part of 2022.

“This is another step in expanding the numbers of persons who are protected, as we continue to deal with the Delta variant in our communities and plan for the arrival of the Omicron variant, which is already found in more than a third of states,” said Sidelinger.

All COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. They are available throughout the state at pharmacies, health providers, Tribal clinics and community vaccination clinics.

More information can be found here.

It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11, is a call to all Americans 6 months and older to get their annual flu vaccine if they have not already. Flu remains a significant public health concern, and this week will serve to remind people that there is still time to get a flu vaccine—the only vaccine that protects against flu—to prevent flu illness and potentially serious complications.

We get it to help #fightflu

What is the difference between COVID-19 and Influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

More information about can be found here.

The Malheur County Health Department will offer flu vaccines to people on a walk-in basis Wednesday, Dec. 15 and Wednesday, Dec. 29, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the clinic, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, or by appointment. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Source: CDC.gov

Outdoor mask requirement lifted

The Oregon Health Authority today announced the lifting of the mask requirement for outdoor gatherings, but said masks were still recommended for large outdoor gatherings where social distancing cannot be maintained. Masks are still required in indoor settings.

“COVID-19 remains a very unpredictable virus,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said. He pointed to the high number of people still hospitalized in Oregon, and increased cases in several US states currently to stress that this is not a time to let our guard down.

Oregon reached the sad milestone of 5,000 COVID-19-related deaths this week. “Each death represents a hole in someone’s life that will never be filled,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. This does not compare with flu, he said, “A bad flu season kills 600 Oregonians a year.” As the holidays approach, MCHD urges everyone to be considerate of the family members we love. Limit the size of gatherings, wear masks when indoors with unvaccinated people, and wash your hands frequently.

Vaccine clinic on tap for Saturday, Nov. 20

Malheur County Health Department, in cooperation with the Malheur County Incident Command Team, will host a drive-through vaccine clinic for people age 5 and older Saturday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario, Oregon.

If you’re already vaccinated, but bring a person for their first COVID-19 vaccine, both of you will receive a $25 gift card.

All three COVID-19 vaccines will be available; first doses, second doses, third doses and boosters. To view the flyer, go here:

A second drive-through event will be held three weeks later, Dec. 11, at the same location, also from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There is no charge for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Boys get vaccinated in memory of grandmother

Garrett (6) and Trenton (9) Schulthies came to the Malheur County after-hours clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which will help protect them against serious illness or death if they contract the virus which causes COVID-19.

Their mom, Lori, received a booster dose at the same time. All three were also inoculated against the flu virus. Lori says the boys lost their grandmother to complications of COVID-19, while two other grandparents and an aunt were hospitalized.

“If we don’t get vaccinated, there’s a way higher chance we could die,” Trenton said, when asked why he chose to be vaccinated. Garrett decided to keep it real when asked the same question: “Mom forced me. I didn’t have a choice.”

Children age 5-11 are now eligible to be protected against the virus that causes COVID-19, after the FDA recently authorized use of a smaller dose for children. Wednesday was the first day the vaccine was available to children at the Malheur County Health Department, and eight children received their first dose that day.

Malheur County has extended its clinic hours on Wednesdays through the end of December, except for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The clinic, at 1108 SW 4th Ave. in Ontario, will be open to walk-in clients looking for vaccinations from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on those days. Everyone age 5 and up is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, and most adults who received their second dose more than six months ago are eligible for a booster dose.

The county is also hosting drive-through vaccine clinics on two upcoming Saturdays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Ontario Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., in Ontario.

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Malheur County

Malheur County Health Department has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses for kids age 5 to 11, and is ready to begin vaccinating children against the virus.

There are multiple options for parents who plan to vaccinate their children; walk-in clinics every Wednesday in November and December (except the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Health Department office, 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario, or a drive-up clinic Saturday, Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., with a second-dose clinic scheduled three weeks later, on Dec. 11, at the same time and location.

Children and adults who come to the Health Department for the vaccine will also be able to receive a flu vaccine, and potentially catch up on other childhood or regular vaccines that are needed.

If the times listed above don’t work for your schedule, you can make an appointment by calling 541-889-7279, or check with your child’s pediatrician or retail pharmacy.

HealthyChildren.org has provided a checklist for parents planning to have their child vaccinated. It can be found here.

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