Vale School District and Elementary School

The sign for Vale Elementary School, which also houses the School District Office. 

MALHEUR COUNTY

For the second week in a row, Oregon Health Authority’s weekly report shows no new cases of COVID-19 among Malheur County schools.

Vale Elementary School is still listed under “Schools with recently resolved COVID-19 Cases” with one staff/volunteer case being reported on Sept. 22. However, the school is currently seeing four classes affected by individuals who have been in the building who tested positive for the virus.

This was announced on Sunday by Vale School District Superintendent Alisha McBride. The state’s weekly update is published every Wednesday and includes date through the previous Sunday, so if there were any additional positives in the school district, they would not appear in this week’s update.

Nyssa High School is reporting four staff/volunteer cases and one student case (with the most recent onset date of Sept. 30).

Nyssa Middle School continues to have zero cases among students and four cases among staff/volunteers listed in the OHA update, with a most recent onset date of Sept. 30. According to Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe, the number for the middle school should actually be zero among students and one among staff/volunteers, as there are staff members who were counted as both being in the high school and the middle school.

Nyssa Elementary School is reporting one case among students and three cases among staff/volunteers with the most recent onset date of Oct. 5.

In total, Nyssa School District has reported 10 total cases, which remains the highest in the state. Four Rivers Community School has reported four cases among staff/volunteers, but those cases have since been resolved.

Also in Malheur County, both local branches of the Oregon Child Development Center are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19. The Nyssa location has reported seven cases of the virus, with the most recent onset being of Oct. 12. The Ontario location has reported five cases with the most recent onset being on Oct. 2.

The child care facilities do not differentiate between students and staff/volunteers the way the schools do.

School metrics

For several weeks, local educators have been openly talking about how the Oregon Department of Education is looking to restructure its metrics used for reopening schools statewide. Schools do not yet know what the new reopening metrics will look like, with Adrian Superintendent Kevin Purnell, during an Oct. 8 meeting, saying he had heard it might change to a more local decision based on zip codes.

Currently, most areas of the state are operating on a metric based on cases per 100,000 population. Malheur County, which has a high population but a low population density, needs to have fewer than 30 cases of COVID-19 in a three week period (with fewer than half of those cases coming in the last week of the three-week period) and a test positivity rate lower than 5%.

While Malheur County remains on Gov. Kate Brown’s Watch List, the county is reporting lower weekly numbers than it had through the summer.

For the week of Oct. 18, OHA reported 73 cases of COVID-19 with a test positivity rate of 23.5%. This is following the week of Oct. 11 reporting 70 cases and the week of Oct. 4 reporting 81 cases.

While these numbers are still far away from the state guidance the numbers are the lowest that the county has posted since OHA began reporting the weekly numbers in July. For the entire month of August and the first three weeks of September, Malheur County was reporting over 100 cases per week (with a high of 133 in the week of Aug. 16).

County numbers

To accompany the weekly update, Malheur County Health Department posted the local date found in the update, with some extra number for the county.

As of Oct. 25, Malheur County was reporting 1,910 cases all-time. On it’s website, the health department has 1,644 cases as “Presumed to Be Recovered.”

Breaking down the cases by zip code, Ontario’s 97914 has 1,406 cases (up from 1,359 last week), Nyssa’s 97913 has 320 cases (305 last week) and Vale’s 97918 has 151 cases (146 last week). Among the rest of Malheur County’s zip codes, there have been 33 total cases of COVID-19.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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