Malheur County trails state in obeying ‘stay home’ order, and officials urge limits

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One new measuring stick shows Malheur County residents lagging behind others in the state in obeying stay-home guidelines, and that worries local health officials.

In an advisory issued Friday, Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department, urged people to heed a list of precautions to stanch an expected spread of COVID-19 as the global pandemic continues.

“We continue to need your help now, before we experience a surge of positive cases,” the department advisory said.

Acting now will have the greatest impact on how the virus spreads and on the health care system’s ability to respond, it said.

DOCUMENT: Malheur County memo

Malheur County so far has two people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 63 who have tested negative, according to the latest report from the Oregon Health Authority. Idaho has seen a surge, with more people testing as infected than in Oregon.

Poe’s memo cited a new Google report that tracks community response to recent Stay Home, Save Lives orders adopted in Oregon and 37 other states.

The April 1 figures showed Oregonians overall paring their activities by 51% in retail/recreation, 25% in grocery/pharmacy, and 38% in the workplace. In Malheur County, the reductions were “much less” – 33% in retail/recreation, 15% in grocery/pharmacy, and 23% in workplace.

The health department acknowledged that the stay-home order is causing hardships for people and businesses, but said such orders are considered the best defense against the spread of the virus.

Even with total adherence to the measures, health officials are predicting 100,000 to 250,000 virus-related deaths nationwide.

 “The number of people in our local community who will be infected and the number of people who will die is largely dependent on how well each of us who live, work, and shop in Malheur County and surrounding areas follow the social distancing measures,” said Poe’s advisory.

The three-page document outlines basic preventative measures for the public, such as hand-washing, social distancing using the six-foot rule, limiting trips to the grocer to once a week, and avoiding close contact and gatherings.

The report also echoes new federal recommendations that people wear non-surgical masks or face covers when out of the home and around other people. Poe’s recommendation stressed that people should not use surgical masks, which are in short supply and are needed by health care workers.

Anyone who has a supply of the N95 respirator masks or other specialized personal protection gear is encouraged to donate that to front-line health workers by calling Rich Harriman, county emergency manager, at 541-473-5120.

Poe’s advisory also listed tips for handling illness, encouraging families to create a “family COVID-19 plan.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued tips for such planning on its website.

Among other things, someone who becomes ill should stay home unless they need to seek medical care. They should not go to work, even if they work in an essential business.

Home plans call for a having separate bedroom and bathroom for the ill person, regular temperature checks, notifying others who may need to monitor for symptoms for two weeks, and frequent sanitation practices.

People who are healthy are urged to continue to stay home, and to stay healthy through good diet and safely distanced outdoor exercise. Those who can should consider donating to food pantries and other charities, and finding ways to help others cope with stress or anxiety.

 “Be ready to help one another,” the advisory urged. “A strong sense of community will carry us through this difficult time.”

Contact Malheur Enterprise: [email protected].