COLUMN: Malheur County residents are making a difference to reopen schools, businesses

Testing continues at sites in Malheur County, as rates improve and allow schools to reopen. (Enterprise file photo)

In early December, Malheur County schools and the Malheur ESD partnered with the Malheur County Health Department to increase access to free, rapid COVID-19 tests in Malheur County. The intent was to identify individuals in the community with COVID-19 so they could isolate and stop the spread of COVID-19. The long-term goals were to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases in Malheur County so K-12 students could return to the classroom and local businesses could operate without restrictions.

As you can see from the chart, your efforts are making a difference!

Nearly all K-12 schools in Malheur County have returned to full on-site learning due to the dedication our communities have shown to fight COVID-19. In a matter of two-months, Malheur County two-week rates have decreased from over 700 cases to 306 cases per 100,000. Malheur County’s positivity rate has also decreased from over 20% to 7.7%! 

Malheur County has made tremendous progress, and we are so close to meeting our goals. If the two-week rate drops below 200 cases per 100,000 (approximately 60 cases in a two week span), indoor dining will be allowed in Malheur County restaurants and indoor volleyball competitions will be allowed.  We had 39 cases last week and through February 10 have only recorded one case this week.  We are so close to being able to open businesses next week or the week after if we continue these trends.  

It is important that we continue to work toward our goal of decreasing the number of COVID-19 cases and positivity rate in Malheur County. You can help these efforts by staying home if you are ill, frequently washing/sanitizing your hands, wearing a face covering, and participating in COVID-19 testing events.  The testing event held at Vale High School on Feb. 5 was extremely successful with 169 participants and ZERO positive cases. 

By maintaining our focus collectively on safety protocols, adhering to the guidance from the Malheur County Health Department, and making smart decisions, we can all do our part to help open up businesses, and keep our schools open.

Keep up the great work, Malheur County!

The authors are school superintendents in Malheur County: Mark Redmond, Malheur ESD; Alisha McBride, Vale School District; Kevin Purnell, Adrian School District; and Chelle Robins, Four Rivers Community School.

SHARE YOUR VIEW – Submit a letter to the editor to [email protected] or by mail to PO Box 310 Vale, OR 97918. Letters are limited to 250 words. Form letters aren’t eligible. Include your name, city of residence, email/phone number for verification purposes. Let the community know what you think!