Vale, area schools plan 8 free Covid testing events before Christmas

School officials hope expanded testing will help decrease the county’s positivity rate by increasing the number of negative tests in the mix and enabling asymptomatic carriers to isolate. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

VALE – Vale High School will host a free drive-through Covid testing event from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, in the hopes of helping Malheur County to decrease its positive case rate. 

This is the first in a series of testing provided in the coming weeks by area schools to anyone in the community.

All testing is free and one does not have to have symptoms. Related paperwork about the testing is available in both English and Spanish. 

The county’s rate of Covid tests coming back positive has hovered at around 20%, double the benchmark 10% that qualifies Malheur County as extreme risk and subjects it to additional state restrictions. The county’s risk level is also measured in terms of its case count per 100,000 people, which is currently 718 people, far above the 200-person cutoff needed to ease limits on restaurants and other businesses.

Mark Redmond, Malheur Educational Service District superintendent, said that while expanded testing is expected to increase Malheur County’s case count at first, in the long run it will reduce the positive rate as asymptomatic carriers are identified and can be isolated to stop the virus spread.

He described previous free testing days held by county authorities as a success.

“We need to continue on this same path forward, and encourage people to continue testing,” said Redmond.

The testing event at Vale High School was promoted not only by administrators, but by a range of students who spoke in an emotional 10-minute video about how their schooling has been affected by Covid.

“My teenage years are slowly slipping away from me as I have lost the opportunity to learn about myself and the world through creatively expressing myself in school and in sports,” said Kailey McGourty, a junior. 

“Last spring left me in a state of uncertainty, but with some hope for a regular senior year,” said Trent Aldred, a senior. “Before the pandemic I was looking forward to my last year of high school education and sports. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss going to school and seeing my classmates and teachers.”

The desire to watch and participate in sports again was a theme among the students interviewed.

“I just really want to see our boys play football for their senior year and cheer them on,” said Emma Rice, a senior.

Others exhorted viewers to follow Covid safety guidelines so that they could return to school.

“I wear a mask because I want to get back into the building and start doing some hands on stuff, like the automotive class,” said Aydin Eddy, a freshman.

“Please help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Malheur County so our students can return to the classroom and engage in the opportunities they love,” concludes the video. 

Redmond said that the schools would host eight free testing events before Christmas and encouraged people to show out. 

The other seven events include testing at the following sites and times:

• Adrian Elementary School, Friday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m–12 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 17, 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

• Four Rivers Community School, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 9:30 a.m.–12 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 17, 5–7 p.m.

• Nyssa High School, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 12–2 p.m.

• Malheur ESD Vale, Thursday, Dec. 10, 12–2 p.m.

• Vale High School, Monday, Dec. 21, 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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