Oregon moving closer to vaccination goal

Risk levels, capacity limits and most mask requirements will be lifted once 70% is reached

Governor Kate Brown on Friday announced the steps Oregon will take to lift COVID-19 restrictions when the statewide vaccination goal of 70% of adults has been reached. A Governor’s Office press release provides the details.

As of today, 66.8% of Oregonians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines. For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point — and you are protected from this virus,” Gov. Brown said. “However, there are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel and stay safe. People battling cancer and immunocompromised Oregonians, to name a couple. There are also many Oregon kids who are not yet eligible for a vaccine. So, it will remain incredibly important for Oregonians to continue making smart choices. And, to respect the choices of others. Let’s respect one another as we prepare to make this transition.”

In Malheur County, 34.8% of the eligible population age 16 and older have been vaccinated. The goal for individual counties is 65%. For more information on goals and vaccine rates, visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Governor’s Goal dashboard here.

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.

Governor announces vaccination goals for reopening local economies

Governor Kate Brown today announced new metrics for reopening the economy, saying that when 70% of Oregonians 16 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, most risk-level restrictions would be lifted. She said she felt confident that the goal would be reached by the end of June. A Governor’s Office news release is available here.

Additionally, beginning May 21, counties that reach 65% vaccination of residents 16 and older will have the option to move to Lower Risk by submitting a plan to close equity gaps in vaccination. Two counties have already reached 65%, four are above 60%, and five are above 55%. In Malheur County, current data shows that just over 31% of the eligible population has been vaccinated. That number does not include the estimated 1,800 Malheur County residents who received a vaccine in Idaho but the additional doses, once factored in, still aren’t enough to hit the target.

“Best case is that 39% of our eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “That means we still have thousands of people who need to be vaccinated.”

The Governor’s announcement comes a day after the Oregon Health Authority posted the latest Risk Level Metrics report showing Malheur County’s two-week case count at 64, up from 37 the week prior. School outbreaks make up the majority of the cases, but there continues to be sporadic infection throughout the community as well. COVID-19-related deaths are also rising locally. Four people have died since mid-April: a female in her 50s, a female in her 80s, a male in his 60s, and a male in his 80s.

Gov. Brown also announced new county risk levels today. Malheur County will remain at High Risk. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.

Malheur County moving to High Risk following 35 new cases, 3 deaths

Thirty-five new COVID-19 cases over the two-week period from April 18 through May 1 will push Malheur County into the High Risk level of the state’s 4-tier risk assessment system this Friday. There were three lives lost to COVID-19 during that period, bringing the county’s total deaths to 61. The county’s rising numbers prompted a warning from Director of Environmental Health Craig Geddes.

“We are saddened by the loss of three more Malheur County residents to this virus, which continues to threaten not only lives but livelihoods,” Geddes said. “The current trend is extremely concerning. If our cases continue to climb and our vaccination rates continue to be low, we will continue to experience this kind of loss. We need everyone to take this seriously – continue to follow precautions and get vaccinated.”

Malheur County is one of 15 counties moving into High Risk on Friday. Thirteen of those are moving down a level, from Extreme Risk. A Governor’s Office announcement today stated that with the statewide seven-day average increase for hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients dropping below 15%, Oregon no longer meets the statewide metrics for the Extreme Risk level. In total, 24 counties will be at High Risk, four at Moderate Risk, and eight at Lower Risk. An Oregon Health Authority report showing two-week case counts and test positivity rates is available here. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.

High Risk guidance allows for indoor dining at eating and drinking establishments, but occupancy can’t exceed 25% or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Outdoor dining is limited to 120 people maximum. Seating per table is limited to six people from no more than two households. Closing time is 11 p.m. at the latest. Other restrictions beginning Friday:

  • For faith institutions, the recommended maximum indoor capacity is 25% of occupancy or 150 people, whichever is smaller; outdoor is 200 people maximum.
  • Indoor and outdoor shopping centers and malls are limited to 50% of maximum occupancy; curbside pick-up is encouraged.
  • Indoor entertainment establishments are limited to 25% occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Closing time is 11 p.m. at the latest. Outdoor entertainment establishments are limited to a maximum of 15% capacity. Closing time is 11 p.m. at the latest
  • Indoor recreation & fitness establishments are limited to 25% occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller; outdoor is 15% capacity.
  • Retail stores are limited to 50% maximum capacity; curbside pick-up is encouraged.
  • Social and at-home gatherings indoors are limited to a maximum of 6 people with a recommended limit of 2 households; outdoor is a maximum of 8 people.

Malheur County’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is second-lowest in the state, behind Umatilla County. As of May 3, 24.8% of Malheur County residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 20.9% have completed the series, meaning they have received a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer. Respective statewide averages are 42.9% and 30.0%.

Since Sunday, May 2, after the reporting period that moved the county into High Risk, through today, an additional 14 cases have been reported.

More information on vaccination rates by county can be found here.

The full selection of Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 data dashboards is available here.

Malheur County will remain at Lower Risk despite rising COVID-19 cases

Rising case numbers and test positivity rate are enough this week to push Malheur County up one level to Moderate Risk on the state’s four-tier risk assessment system, but a two-week caution period will allow the county to remain at Lower Risk until May 6, according to an update released today by the Governor’s Office.

Malheur County is one of three counties in the state entering a two-week caution period. “The two-week caution period applies to counties facing backward movement. 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, are given a two-week caution period to re-focus efforts to drive back down creeping case numbers and give local businesses additional certainty on their plans for operating,” today’s update said.

A Risk Levels Summary Table also released today shows that during the two-week period from April 4 to April 17, Malheur County’s case count was 27, up from 24 during the previous two-week period; case rate was 84.3, up from 74.9; and test positivity rate was 4.9%, up from 4.3% (adjusted down from 5.1% since initial reporting).

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe cautioned that Malheur County’s steady rise in cases, coupled with a concerningly low vaccine rate compared to the rest of the state, could result in increased outbreaks, illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Malheur County reported its first COVID-19-related death in three months this week. The county could also face risk level-related restrictions on businesses and activities.

“We are among a cluster of Eastern Oregon counties that are not doing that well with vaccinating. We’re at about 2,300 per 10,000 people vaccinated. The only county that’s doing worse than us is Umatilla,” she said. “It’s definitely concerning.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority’s vaccination dashboard, Malheur County lags behind the statewide percentages of people vaccinated in all age groups. Also of concern is the disparity at the state level between those who identify as Hispanic/Latinx and other race and ethnic groups, shown here. Hispanic/Latinx as a group is only 19.3% vaccinated with at least one dose, behind Blacks at 19.9%, American Indian/Alaska Natives at 21%, Asians at 30.9%, Whites at 34.8%, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders at 40.4%. Latinos make up about 34% of Malheur County’s population, and while vaccine data based on race/ethnicity is not available from the state for counties like Malheur, where smaller populations could make such data stigmatizing, it is likely that local vaccine rates follow a similar trend.

“On a very practical, common sense level, we need the COVID-19 vaccines to prevent outbreaks and save lives. As a community, we value family and connection. Getting vaccinated protects the people you love and also helps keep our county open. There is no logical way for us to get out of this pandemic and back to normal life without the majority of our community immunized,” Poe said.

Gov. Brown last week said that as Oregonians face more contagious variants and increased spread of COVID-19, the best protection is getting vaccinated. “Until you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors are fully vaccinated, it’s also critical that we all continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and stay home when sick.”

A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

Warning Week: COVID-19 test positivity rate and cases are rising in Malheur County

“We urge you, for the sake of our business community and working families, to prioritize getting everyone in your household vaccinated who meets the conditions and recommendations of the CDC.”

Ontario City Manager Adam Brown

Malheur County’s COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates are on the rise, according to a weekly Risk Levels Summary released by the Governor’s Office this week. During the two-week period from March 28 to April 10, there were 24 new cases reported, for a case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people) of 74.9. The test positivity rate was 5.1%.

Both rates would qualify Malheur County, currently in the Lower Risk category, to move to Moderate Risk if they had occurred during the two weeks leading up to a Movement Week instead of a Warning Week, and if counties weren’t given a two-week caution period meant to keep those that moved down in risk level during the previous movement period from experiencing a yo-yo effect.

This week’s report shows an increase of 10 cases over the previous two-week period, from March 14-27, and a jump of almost 76% in the test positivity rate, which was previously 2.9%.

“These numbers are concerning, given the rise in cases throughout the country and the increase in the presence of variants in and around Oregon and Idaho,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

According to the state’s Vaccination Trends dashboard, Malheur County has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the state, with 2,276.9 people out of 10,000 having received at least one dose. Umatilla County has the lowest with 2,166.5, and Lincoln County the highest with 4,526.7.

If Malheur County’s case count continues to increase, a higher risk level and the associated risk-reduction measures, such as lower limits on capacity at businesses and activities, are not far off.

“As partners with Malheur County, the City of Ontario wants to see our businesses operate at their fullest capacity under the circumstances to maintain the economic health of our community. Vaccinations are proven to be one of the ways to keep case rates down. We urge you, for the sake of our business community and working families, to prioritize getting everyone in your household vaccinated who meets the conditions and recommendations of the CDC,” Ontario City Manager Adam Brown said.

A nationwide pause in the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which began Tuesday following a joint statement by the CDC and FDA regarding their review of six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot, is unlikely to create a shortage of vaccine in Malheur County where supply currently exceeds demand. Poe said there is enough Moderna vaccine available to proceed with an 8-day vaccine event that begins this Friday at the Malheur County Fairgrounds.

“It’s important to not exaggerate the very rare potential for risk that is being examined with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Poe said. “The pause in distribution of Johnson & Johnson should give us more confidence in the safety of the vaccines that are available. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is still very real and preventable with vaccine,” Poe said.

Malheur County pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in accordance with state and federal guidance

8-day vaccine event with OHA/FEMA still on track to start this Friday

The use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is on hold in Malheur County pending review by the FDA and CDC. Both federal entities, along with the Oregon Health Authority, called for that pause this morning citing six cases out of 6.85 million doses of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) that developed in women ranging in age from 18 to 48 within two weeks of being vaccinated. At this time, it is unknown if the blood clots are related to the vaccine.

 “CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” a joint statement by the CDC and FDA reads.

Of the 11,668 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to Malheur County residents, 1,085 were Johnson & Johnson – less than 10%. The large majority of vaccines have been Moderna, according to the OHA’s Vaccination Trends Dashboard.

The Malheur County Health Department will move forward with plans to team up with the OHA and FEMA on an 8-day COVID-19 vaccine event that begins this Friday at 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds. “We have plenty of Moderna vaccine available to us for this event,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said. “We are close to 100 COVID-19-related deaths between Malheur County and neighboring Payette County. We are prioritizing the risks associated with COVID-19 and we know that our best tool in the fight against it is vaccination.”

Poe said the nationwide pause is a good indication that the vaccine monitoring system works. “This should give us all even more confidence in the rigorous safety protocols being followed in development and use of COVID-19 vaccines.”

MCHD Health Officer and Medical Director Sarah Laiosa, DO, said the risks associated with being infected with COVID-19 far outweigh the risk that these cases might represent, should it be determined that they are related to the vaccine. “The risk of clotting from COVID-19 is 16.5%. Comparatively, that’s significant. We trust in the process of ensuring that the vaccines available in the U.S. are safe, and we trust in the safety of the vaccines that are currently in use and will be made available for the upcoming event,” she said.

The FDA and CDC recommend that “People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.” They will provide additional information and answer questions later today at a media briefing. A recording of that media call will be available on the FDA’s YouTube channel.

Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? You don’t want to miss this Zoom event

Anyone in Eastern Oregon who has questions about the COVID-19 vaccine is invited to attend any of three online COVID-19 Vaccine Community Workshops scheduled later this month. Boost Oregon, a trusted voice in vaccination education, has partnered with the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization to offer these free Zoom-based meetings in both English and Spanish.

Attendees will learn how COVID-19 vaccines work and have an opportunity to ask questions of the presenters.

Spanish Speakers’ Workshop with Dr. Rima Chamie
Wednesday, April 28, 7-8 p.m. MDT

English Speakers’ Workshop Option 1 with Dr. Ryan Hassan
Thursday, April 29, 7-8 p.m. MDT

English Speakers’ Workshop Option 2 with Dr. Rima Chamie
Friday, April 30, 1-2 p.m. MDT

Boost Oregon has also made informative COVID-19 Fact Sheets available in English and Spanish.

Eight-day vaccine event begins April 16 in Ontario

Malheur County, in collaboration with Oregon Health Authority and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic April 16-23 at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, located at 795 N.W. 9th St. in Ontario. The event will distribute up to 2,000 doses of vaccine over eight days. The event was scheduled to provide people in Malheur County with convenient opportunities for vaccination.

The vaccine is free and health insurance is not required, but those who have insurance are asked to bring their insurance card with them. Everyone who is age 18+ can be vaccinated at this event, regardless of immigration status. No one will be asked to provide proof of identification or documentation.

Participants will receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of Moderna and be scheduled for a second dose.

The event will be held on the following dates. No appointment is necessary, but vaccinations will depend on supply for that day.

  • Friday, April 16, 4-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 17, 12-8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 18, 12-8 p.m.
  • Monday, April 19, 4-8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 20, 4-8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 21, 4-8 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 22, 4-8 p.m.
  • Friday, April 23, 4-8 p.m.

Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine available to people age 16-17 and will not be available at this vaccine event. For information on getting a Pfizer vaccine, or to learn more about this vaccination event, call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279.

Governor expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Oregonians over 16, effective April 19

Governor Kate Brown announced today that all Oregonians over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning April 19.

“We are locked in a race between vaccine distribution and the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants. Today, Oregon will pass the threshold of 2 million vaccine doses administered. And yet, in communities across Oregon, COVID-19 is spreading at concerning rates. We must move as quickly as possible to get more shots in arms. Beginning April 19, all Oregonians over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive a vaccine,” she said.

Read the full press release here.