Malheur County stays in ‘moderate risk’ for now

Small clusters of masked fans at some sports games, such as those seen here at a recent soccer game between Four Rivers Community School and Ontario High School, will remain OK for now as Malheur County will stay in "moderate risk" level for now as it relates to the spread of COVIDp-19. However, case numbers must decrease in order not to slide back on March 26.


Activities at risk of decreasing or stopping, including school sports and dining  out, due to COVID-19 risk level changes are safe in Malheur County for now. It’s worth noting that the county’s case numbers are high enough to cause it to slide backwards from “moderate risk” to “high risk,” after just recently surpassing the latter of these when moving out of “extreme risk.”

However, Gov. Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that there will now be a grace period of two weeks for those counties which “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.”

The aim during the two-week caution period is to get case rates back down, and according to a news release from the Malheur County Health Department, it would have only taken two fewer cases to stay in moderate risk without a cautionary period. If not, the county will go back to a higher risk level.

In addition to working on getting case rates down, the caution period is aimed at giving “local businesses additional certainty on their plans for operating,” according to Brown’s news release.

Malheur and Jackson counties are the only two at this time to enter the two-week caution period.

“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,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department, in her agency’s news release. “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.”

According to information on Tuesday’s risk level summary, Malheur County had 33 positive cases of COVID between Feb. 21 and March 6 for a total case rate of 103 per 100,000 people.

“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.

The new risk levels, effective Friday through March 25, puts two counties at “extreme risk,” nine at “high risk,” 12 at “moderate risk” and 13 at “lower risk.” The next assignment of risk levels will be announced March 23, and take effect March 26.

Masks off or on?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidance on Monday regarding wearing masks, and in a public setting, masks should remain on. However, the CDS states that fully vaccinated people can now gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors with no masks or social distancing. Additionally, it states that fully vaccinated people can be in a single household with people who may be at low risk for severe disease.

However, the CDC still suggests that fully vaccinated people still wear masks when in public, as well as maintain social distancing, avoid large gatherings and take other precautions around those not vaccinated. Furthermore, those who have been fully vaccinated and exposed to COVID will not have to quarantine unless they are experiencing symptoms.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after having received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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