Complaints some businesses are skirting governor’s ban prompts response from county health official

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said her office received complaints some select businesses in the county are not following Gov. Kate Brown’s order issued last month to stop the COVID-19 virus outbreak. (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – Some residents and businesses around Malheur County are skirting a directive by the governor to stay home, according to Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.

Late last month Gov. Kate Brown ordered all barbers and hairdressing business in the state to close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Poe said the local complaints from “people I trust in the local medical community” center on some hair salons.

“Concerns are that salons are still operating, with people parking in the back or moving work off-site,” said Poe.

Poe said salons were “especially high risk,” because of the work requires customers to sit close to each other.

“If you get your nails done, you are sitting two feet away from someone for an hour and a half,” said Poe.

Poe said residents “don’t need to figure out a way to still go get your hair cut or your nails done. That isn’t the goal. This is not about people’s choice about their own health and lives. Your choices about your health and life impact others.”

Poe said the stay-at-home directive from the governor applies to everyone, including youth.

“Younger people who are well, they are the make or break about whether this social distancing will work. Younger people tend to feel invincible. But they really need to follow these stay home order,” said Poe.

Poe said her agency isn’t asking local police to crack down on violations of the governor’s order.

“But we know they are following up on complaints. We try to educate people who may not know the importance of their actions in preventing spread,” said Poe.

Poe said her office also received complaints regarding people “gathering for parties in their homes.”

“Gatherings and lack of social distancing anywhere raises risk,” said Poe.

Poe also said there are still not enough COVID-19 tests locally, so residents must continue to be vigilant by following federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines on practicing social distancing.

“People shouldn’t be looking at numbers that just say there is only two positives (in Malheur County) and it somehow isn’t affecting them,” she said.

Poe said there is community spread of the virus in Payette County and throughout eastern Oregon.

Poe said COVID-19 virus testing is going on at Saint Alphonsus Medical Group Fruitland Health Plaza and the Stark Medical Group in Ontario.

Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario, she said, can also test but restricts them to individuals already admitted to the facility.

Poe said the health safeguards in the county will be necessary for the near future.

“My hope is by June we will be lightening up,” said Poe.

The most recent statistics show Oregon with 1,181 COVID-19 virus cases and 33 deaths.

Idaho, as of April 8, recorded 1,232 COVID-19 virus cases and 18 deaths. Malheur County has so far recoded two COVID-19 cases and no deaths.


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