Covid hits BLM office in Vale, prompting closure

VALE – Five employees of the Vale district office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management tested positive for Covid, leading the agency to close the office.

The Oregon Health Authority reported the positive tests in its weekly testing report on Wednesday, showing the first positive test at the Vale office was on Dec. 9.

The BLM subsequently shut down the office, which will stay closed until Monday, Dec. 28.

“We chose to close the offices as a precautionary measure after some employees reported testing positive or having been exposed,” said Larisa Bogardus, BLM spokeswoman.

Bogardus said there was no report that any employee required hospitalization for the coronavirus.

She said the agency “advised employees to conduct a personal risk assessment and self-quarantine if appropriate.”

The exposures and infections don’t appear connected to a BLM operation. Most instances of Covid infections in Malheur County have been linked to community spread and informal social gatherings, according to health officials.

The Malheur County Health Department on Thursday reported 15 new cases in the county and two more deaths. The deaths linked to Covid now total 49. The county said there have been 2,691 cases since the pandemic arrived locally last March. Of those, 2,288 people are listed as having recovered.

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