No change to county risk level this week

Malheur County is more than halfway to 65% vaccination goal

Malheur County will remain at the High Risk level when updates are made to the state’s public health framework this Friday. During the two-week period from May 9-22, Malheur County reported 38 new cases of COVID-19, a marked decrease from the two periods prior. The case rate, or number of cases per 100,000 people, was 118.4 and test positivity rate was 7.8%. This week’s Risk Levels Summary Table is available here.

“The science is clear: vaccines are very effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19, and they are the key to returning to normal life and lifting health and safety restrictions statewide,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a news release on Tuesday. “This disease remains dangerous for those in communities with high rates of unvaccinated individuals. That’s why I’m encouraging all Oregonians to roll up your sleeves, take your shot, and get a chance to change your life. It’s never been easier to get vaccinated, and you may just end up a winner through the Take Your Shot, Oregon campaign.”

Last week, Gov. Brown unveiled the campaign aimed at incentivizing Oregonians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 through monetary prizes. A total of $1.86 million will be given away next month, and Oregonians age 12 and older who receive a dose of any of the three available vaccines by June 27 will be eligible to win.

“In this final push to reach every Oregonian with a vaccine and to meet our goal of at least 70% of adults vaccinated so that we can fully reopen our economy, we will need to pull on every lever we have. So, if you’ve been waiting to get a vaccine or you just haven’t gotten around to it yet, we’re going to give you an extra incentive. How about a chance to win a million dollars? Take Your Shot Oregon, roll up your sleeves, and get a chance to change your life,” Gov. Brown said during a press conference on May 21.

Statewide, 64.3% of adults had received a dose of vaccine as of May 25. Gov. Brown set the 70% goal earlier this month, saying that most restrictions would be lifted when it is reached. An additional goal of vaccinating 65% of people age 16 and older was set for each of the state’s 36 counties, enabling those that meet it to move into the Lower Risk level sooner than the rest of the state.

Malheur County is more than halfway to that goal, with 33.6% of the 16+ population vaccinated with at least one dose. The counties of Benton, Hood River, Multnomah, Washington and Lincoln have reached the 65% goal.

“Lincoln County was just over 100 vaccines away from their goal last Friday morning, and by noon they had reached it. They are going into the upcoming holiday weekend with minimal restrictions on their economy and confidence that the majority of their population is protected from the virus. We can achieve the same in Malheur County,” said Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department. “Anyone who is unable to get to a vaccine can call the Health Department to request a home visit. We also offer worksite vaccination, and we have staff who are fluent in both English and Spanish. We are working with our community partners to ensure that vaccines are accessible to everyone age 12 and up, no matter where you are in Malheur County or what your individual needs might be.”

At last count, 8,539 of the 16,534 people who make up 65% of the 16+ population in Malheur County have received a dose of vaccine, leaving 7,995 to reach the goal. This information is available on Oregon Health Authority’s data dashboard, COVID-19 Vaccination Governor’s Goal.

For more information, or to inquire about a home or worksite vaccine, call 541-889-7279.

Malheur County will remain at Moderate Risk despite case rate

Malheur County’s COVID-19 case rate was just high enough over the past two weeks to tip it back into High Risk when risk levels are adjusted statewide this Friday, but an update to the state’s risk level system and a new two-week caution period, announced last week by Governor Kate Brown, will allow the county to remain at Moderate Risk for now.

An announcement by Gov. Brown today confirmed that Malheur County will remain at Moderate Risk and explains a modification to last week’s updated risk levels.

Beginning this week, counties that reduced their COVID-19 spread enough to move down in risk level in the previous two-week period, but see their numbers go back up in the next two-week period, will be given a two-week caution period to bring COVID-19 case rates back down again. Malheur County was one of two counties affected by the new caution period; the other is Jackson County, which qualified for Extreme Risk but will stay at High.

According to today’s announcement, “the caution period will allow counties to re-focus efforts to drive back down creeping case numbers, and give local businesses additional certainty on their plans for operating. If, at the end of the caution period, case rate data still puts the county at a higher risk level, the county will move to that level.”

“We applaud Gov. Brown in her decision to give Oregon counties the opportunity to avoid the see-saw effect that Movement Weeks can bring, particularly for counties the size of Malheur. One small outbreak can make the difference between risk levels, and that uncertainty from week to week is a hardship on our business community that is already reeling,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

Today’s Risk Level Summary, released weekly by the Oregon Governor’s Office on this webpage, shows that Malheur County had 33 positive cases of COVID-19 between Feb. 21 and March 6, making the case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people), 103. Case rates between 100 and 200 are considered High Risk.

Two fewer cases over the last reporting period would have qualified the county to stay at Moderate Risk without the help of a caution period.

“Just two cases in a community with a population of over 32,000 – that really makes clear the role that each of us has in getting and keeping Malheur County open. If you are eligible, get vaccinated, and please continue to do your part by wearing a mask, limiting gatherings, practicing physical distancing, staying home if you feel unwell, and getting tested if you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19,” Poe said.

Effective March 12 through March 25, there will be two counties in the Extreme Risk level, nine at High Risk, 12 at Moderate Risk, and 13 at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here

Updates to county risk levels will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov.

Warning Week: Malheur County could be moving to High Risk if case rate doesn’t decrease

After bypassing the High Risk level last week, current numbers indicate that Malheur County could be moved back a step when the state adjusts its risk level summary for Oregon counties next week. Such a change would result in a decrease in occupancy allowed at eating and drinking establishments, shopping centers, entertainment venues, gyms, and other indoor and outdoor services and activities.

The risk levels are part of a four-tier system used by the Oregon Health Authority to help counties reduce the spread of COVID-19. The system uses testing data to determine risk and provide guidance on public safety measures, such as occupancy limits and closures. Last Friday, after meeting the criteria to move two levels from Extreme to Moderate Risk, many of Malheur County’s businesses were allowed to open for indoor service for the first time since the risk level system was implemented following a statewide two-week freeze in November.

Based on population, Malheur County’s risk level is determined by two indicators: case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people) and test positivity rate. This week’s report, which can be accessed from this webpage, shows that from Feb. 14 through Feb. 27, Malheur County’s case rate was 159.2 and test positivity rate was 4.5%. The test positivity rate is in the Lower Risk range but the case rate falls in the High Risk category. These numbers include adults in custody reported by Snake River Correctional Institution. The final weekly report, from which those cases are removed for the purpose of determining risk level, has not yet been updated this week by the Governor’s Office.

Oregon counties are currently in Week One, also called the Warning Week, which allows counties to prepare for a potential risk level change. No change to risk levels will take place as a result of this week’s report.

During Week Two, also called the Movement Week, updated data is published and county risk levels are assigned. Risk levels take effect on Fridays and remain in effect for two weeks while the process repeats. The next risk level change will take place on March 12. It will be based on data collected from Feb. 21 through March 6.