Malheur County plans drive-through testing for coronavirus to get handle on scope of infections

This is the routing for drive-through testing for COVID-19 to be conducted Wednesday, April 29, at the Malheur County Fairgrounds in a map provided by the Malheur County Health Department.

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ONTARIO – Malheur County plans to stage a drive-through clinic next week to test some local residents for the coronavirus, assessing the scope of its spread in the community.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds in Ontario. Only those with symptoms and other circumstances will be tested. The county has 100 tests available.

“Access to enough testing in our area is essential to identifying cases for isolation and making sure they get the care they need,” said Angie Gerrard, a nurse and Malheur County public health emergency preparedness coordinator. “Knowing who tests positive will help us in our fight to stop the spread of this virus.

Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department, said the one-day testing event would give local authorities a better sense of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.

“We’ve had some resistance to the ‘stay home’ order,” said Poe. “Having a higher level of positive tests will perhaps make it clear that this virus is impacting our towns.”

She said testing could also help local officials decide when to seek a relaxation of state standards that have closed businesses and schools and required people to stay home except for essential chores.

Future drive-through clinics will be scheduled as the county obtains additional testing materials.

As of Wednesday, 204 people in Malheur County had been tested through hospitals or clinics, with five confirmed as infected with COVID-19.

The fairgrounds testing will be open to those who live or work in Malheur County and have two of the symptoms of the coronavirus, such as fever within last three days, cough, or shortness of breath. Individuals who have one symptom and another circumstance also can be tested. The county provided a long list of those circumstances, ranging from those who are 60 or over to those who work in places where people congregate, such as long-term care facilities.

Under the process, those to be tested will drive to the fairgrounds and remain in their cars. A health worker fully suited in protective gear will take the person’s temperature and nose swab.

“You do not leave your car,” Poe said. “No one actually touches you.”

Poe said results will be available in a matter of days and every person tested will be advised of their results.

She said those who test positive will get guidance on treatment and will be asked about contacts with others in the previous two weeks. The survey will focus on individuals who spent at least 15 minutes over that time less than six feet from the infected person.

Those with questions about the testing can call the county health department at 541-889-7279.

Here is the list of circumstances qualifying a person for the testing if they also have at least one symptom of the coronavirus:

Age 60 or older

BMI 40 or above

Live or work in a nursing home or long-term care facility, jail, prison, group home or other congregate care setting

Frontline healthcare provider or first responder

Routinely take cortisone, prednisone or other steroids, anti-cancer drugs, or had radiation treatments

Have a condition that weakens the immune system (cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplant, HIV with low CD4 count or not treated)



Lung disease (moderate to severe asthma, COPD, emphysema, pulmonary or cystic fibrosis)

Cardiovascular disease (heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension)

High blood pressure

Chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis

Chronic liver disease

Had close contact with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case within 14 days of symptoms