Malheur County Health Department gives update on state freeze mandate

ONTARIO

Ontario City Council heard a presentation from Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe regarding Gov. Brown’s statewide freeze mandate at its most recent regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

“We still are up against a lot of misinformation about how serious COVID is,” stated Poe.

She went on to reiterate that face coverings are the “best method of control” that is available. Poe said that the modeling over the next six to eight weeks is “pretty grim.”

Also joining Poe was Craig Geddes, director of environmental health for Malheur County, who had just finished staffing a COVID-19 testing event that happened earlier in the day before joining the teleconference presentation. He said that staff had performed 196 tests on that Tuesday morning and afternoon.

Geddes said that the freeze will affect major venues, such as the Four Rivers Cultural Center.

“The state gave us a protocol that we follow,” he said.

Councilor Freddy Rodriguez asked about the impact on businesses and whether businesses should worry about getting fines and “jail time” from OSHA.

Poe said that while she had heard of fines being imposed after warnings and education were issued, she had not heard of that happening locally and as far as jail time, she had not personally heard anything like that.

“Business owners are very fearful of this and, you just confirmed that it is a possibility,” stated Rodriguez in response.

To learn more about the protocol used by OSHA, the Argus reached out to Aaron Corvin, Public Information Officer with OSHA.

Corvin said that “broadly speaking” that the information presented at the meeting about fines was accurate.

“The restrictions have evolved over time,” said Corvin.

He said that OSHA has encountered situations in which employers and businesses refused to comply with the state mandates which caused the organization to follow up with on-site visits and eventual penalties.

Corvin said that these approaches are all used to bring businesses into compliance with the state mandates.

“Where necessary, we have certainly issued citations when we’ve identified violations,” said Corvin.

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