Malheur County sees ‘concerning’ increase in Covid cases, now faces new state restrictions

With a climbing rate of Covid infections considered “extremely concerning,” Malheur County learned Tuesday that more restrictions are being imposed by the state, moving the area to a “high risk” for infections.

The county recently had been operating under the lowest restrictions, but in the past month the number of people turning up infected has been increasing. The rate of tests turning up positive for the virus has been going up despite determined efforts by health officials to get county residents vaccinated.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the change in restrictions Tuesday evening. She lowered the ranking for 15 counties from “extreme” to “high.”

Malheur joined Douglas County in moving to tighter restrictions. The new ranking takes effect on Friday, May 7.

The state reported on Tuesday that there were 13 new cases in Malheur County – well above the average of 3 a day in recent weeks. The county experienced 35 cases over the two-week period from April 18 through May 1, according to county officials.

In that time, the county recorded three deaths related to Covid, pushing Malheur County’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 61 related to the coronavirus.

“We are saddened by the loss of three more Malheur County residents to this virus, which continues to threaten not only lives but livelihoods,” said Craig Geddes, county director of Environmental Health. “The current trend is extremely concerning. If our cases continue to climb and our vaccination rates continue to be low, we will continue to experience this kind of loss. We need everyone to take this seriously – continue to follow precautions and get vaccinated.”

The impacts of the new restrictions will be felt throughout the community:

*Restaurants can still provide inside dining, but now must cut their customer count to 25% of capacity – half what it was a week again.

*Churches must reduce their indoor capacity to 25% or 150 people, whichever is smaller.

*Theaters and museums will have to cut their capacity by half, with 25% of capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller.

*Retail stores have to cut their customer count to 50% of capacity. They had been allowed up to 75% of capacity.

Watch the www.malheurenterprise.com for updates.