Malheur County will move to Lower Risk this Friday

Beginning this Friday, Malheur County’s risk level will go from Moderate to Lower based on COVID-19 case data reported over the two-week period from March 21 to April 3. A Risk Level Metrics report from the Oregon Health Authority shows that there were 15 cases and a case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people) of 46.8. The test positivity rate was 2.9%.

Risk levels are based on two indicators – new case counts and test positivity rate. The new Lower level allows for some loosening of local restrictions:

  • Eating and drinking establishments still not to exceed 50% capacity, but there is no maximum on number of people. Outdoor dining is allowed with a capacity of 300 people maximum. Indoor and outdoor seating: 8 people per table maximum. Closing time is 12:00 a.m.
  • Faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, and cemeteries to increase maximum occupancy to 75% with no maximum on number of people. Outdoor capacity: 300 people maximum (Capacity limits for faith institutions are recommended only.)
  • Indoor entertainment establishments, such as aquariums, theaters, arenas, concert halls, indoor gardens, museums, and other entertainment activities to remain at 50% maximum occupancy but there is no maximum on number of people. Closing time is 12:00 a.m.
  • Indoor recreation and fitness, including gyms, K-12 sports, collegiate sports, fitness organizations, recreational sports, and pools to remain at 50% occupancy but there is no maximum on number of people. Indoor full-contact sports are still prohibited.
  • Offices to offer limited office work in person.
  • Outdoor entertainment establishments, including zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor theaters, and stadiums to increase to maximum 50% occupancy. Closing time is 12:00 a.m.
  • Outdoor recreation and fitness, including gyms, fitness organizations, K-12 sports, collegiate sports, recreational sports, pools, and parks to increase to maximum50% occupancy. Outdoor full-contact sports are still allowed.
  • Social and at-home gathering size (indoor) to increase to a maximum of 10 people. Recommended limit of 4 households.
  • Social and at-home gathering size (outdoor) to increase to a maximum of 12 people with no recommended limit on number of households.

“We recognize all the sacrifices it has taken to get us this far, and we appreciate everyone’s willingness to work together. Please continue to follow guidance so we can keep cases low and Malheur County businesses open,” said Craig Geddes, Malheur County’s Director of Environmental Health.

In addition to risk level changes, Governor Kate Brown announced today that Oregon is adding a statewide hospitalization metric for moving to Extreme Risk. “COVID-19 hospitalizations are a key indicator of severe illness in Oregon communities. As vaccine distribution increases, case counts and percent positivity will not be adequate indicators on their own for measuring the threat COVID-19 poses to public health,” according to today’s press release.

For more detailed information on risk levels and associated guidance for counties, visit Living with COVID-19.

A full list of this week’s county risk categories is available here.

Warning Week: Malheur County case rate solidly in Moderate Risk range

Malheur County’s case rate over the two-week period from Feb. 28 through March 13 gives the county solid footing in the Moderate Risk level of the state’s four-tier system, explained here, that is designed to help communities reduce the spread of COVID-19. This week is a Warning Week during which no Risk Level assignments are scheduled to occur.

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 Risk Level Metrics report shows that there were 22 cases of COVID-19 reported, equal to a case rate of 68.7. Moderate Risk range is a case rate of 50 to <100. The county’s test positivity rate was 1.5%, well within the Lower Risk range.

“We believe the reduction in cases is largely due to the increasing number of people who are vaccinated. We are heartened that we have not lost another life to COVID-19 in more than a month and hope that with more and more people protected by vaccination, we will be able to save more lives and move our county to the Lower Risk level soon,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

County Risk Levels are updated every two weeks. During a Movement Week next Tuesday, March 23, updated data will be published and county risk levels will be assigned. Any resulting changes to risk levels will take effect on Friday, March 26, and remain in effect for the next two weeks.

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.

Malheur County sees significant drop in test positivity; no change to risk level status

The weekly Risk Level Metrics: Schools and Counties report released today by the Oregon Health Authority shows a significant drop in the COVID-19 test positivity rate for Malheur County, one of two indicators used in determining which of the four risk levels the county is in.

Part of the drop in test positivity rate is likely attributable to a change in the way the state measures data. Previously, only electronic lab reports, or ELRs, were being measured, meaning tests results that were not submitted from a lab were not counted in the test totals. It appears that Malheur County’s electronic case reports, or ECRs, that come from rapid tests such as the BinaxNOW tests used by Malheur County Health Department, have been added to the overall totals, beginning with the week of Jan. 10.

While the drop in positivity rates is a step closer to moving Malheur County out of the Extreme Risk level, the rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 over 14 days remains high, at 306. That number would have to be less than 200 for movement to occur.

“We’re not there yet but we’re getting closer, and these numbers are worth celebrating. The case count is coming down as well, and that’s a direct result of the people of Malheur County following safety guidelines. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing so we can get the county back open for everyone,” MCHD Sarah Poe said.

Weekly reports are posted on the MCHD website as they become available. Visit our COVID-19 CASES page regularly to follow Malheur County’s status.

County risk levels updated, guidance modified for some indoor activity

County risk levels under the state’s public health framework to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19 were updated yesterday. The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level. Effective Jan. 29 through Feb. 11, there will be 25 counties, including Malheur, in the Extreme Risk level, two at High Risk, two at Moderate Risk, and seven at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also announced modifications to the guidance for indoor activities in Extreme Risk counties, which will take effect Jan. 29.

These modifications allow for a maximum of six people indoors at facilities over 500 square feet (for all indoor activities except dining) with associated guidance for ongoing physical distancing, cleaning protocols and face coverings. For facilities smaller than 500 square feet, the modified guidance allows for 1:1 customer experiences, such as personal training.

“The science has shown us that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities when it comes to the spread of COVID 19, which is why we have clearly delineated guidance between indoor and outdoor activities,” said Governor Brown. “We have seen over the last several weeks that Oregonians have largely complied with risk levels to the point that we have not seen a surge in hospitalizations that would have jeopardized hospital capacity. This means we are able to make these adjustments for Extreme Risk counties, which should assist both businesses and Oregonians as we continue to work to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Updates to Warning Week data and county risk levels, as well as updated guidance, will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov by Jan. 29.  

Governor announces updates to county risk levels

Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown today announced updates to county risk levels under the state’s new public health framework to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19. The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level.

Effective January 15 through January 28, there will be 26 counties in the Extreme Risk level, two at High Risk, two at Moderate Risk, and six at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

“With four counties moving back to Extreme Risk, this week we are reminded that health and safety measures continue to be of utmost importance, even when we slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “I want to remind all Oregonians to continue to do their part by abiding by the health and safety guidelines in place. Until vaccines are widely available with high participation rates, the surest way to open our communities is to continue practicing the measures we know are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, keep physical distance from others, avoid gatherings, wash your hands often, and stay home when you are sick.”

The Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly. County risk levels will be reassigned every two weeks. The first week’s data will provide a “warning week” to prepare counties for potential risk level changes. The next assignment of risk levels will be announced January 26 and take effect January 29.

Updates to Warning Week data and county risk levels will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov.