On Tuesday morning, Malheur County Health Department sent out a release asking for people to monitor their symptoms for COVID-19, as the county is seeing a “very high sporadic rate of cases,” the release states.

On top of those who have recently been in social gatherings of more than 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and faith-based gatherings of more than 50 people, the release claims that those who should be monitoring for symptoms, include people who have interacted with:

• An Oct. 2 funeral at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Owyhee Ward in Nyssa;

• Nyssa School District or Four Rivers Community School; or

• Fruitland or Parma youth activities.

According to Health Department Director Sarah Poe, there have been seven known cases of COVID-19 linked to the Oct. 2 funeral that was listed. Poe added that it is especially important for people to follow guidelines when in riskier settings.

Malheur County is still in Phase 1 of Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan. The governor’s guidance caps indoor gatherings at 10 people with physical distancing and caps cultural, civic and faith gatherings at 50 people.

On Aug. 6, the Malheur County Court restricted gatherings to match those of Phase 1, while capping outdoor groups at 25 people.

Nyssa School District and Four Rivers Community School are the only schools in Malheur County with COVID-19 cases listed in the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly update on Oct. 7. Nyssa School District has had a state-high eight total cases related to the school (with the most recent onset case on Sept. 30). Nyssa Elementary School has had one case among students and one among staff/volunteers. Nyssa Middle School lists no cases among students and one staff/volunteer while the high school lists one student and four staff/volunteers.

Four Rivers has had four staff/volunteers test positive. On Friday, Superintendent Chelle Robins said there are no active cases at the school.

Malheur County will need to have fewer than 30 positive cases in a three-week period (with fewer than half of those cases in the last week of the period) and a test positivity rate less than 5% in order to reopen the schools.

In the last three weeks, Malheur County currently has a three-week COVID-19 count of 248 with a test positivity rate of 22.5%. While those numbers are far above where they need to be to reopen schools, in the past two weeks the county has had weekly counts of 64 (week of Sept. 27) and 83 (week of Oct. 4), which are the two lowest weekly counts since the state started tracking weekly counts following the week of July 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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