Local government

Covid cases on the rise in Malheur County, vaccination rate remains low

ONTARIO – Malheur County has been experiencing an increasing level of Covid cases and hospitalizations for the virus, moving the county into the “high” category rating by federal authorities.

No new mandates have been imposed, however.

Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department, said in a statement Friday, July 1, said positive tests for Covid have been increasing since February. She said a special wastewater testing program to detect Covid shows Covid levels as high as they were in January.

“We know the case numbers are underreported,” she said, because those taking home tests don’t always report positive results to health officials.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, Malheur County has the third highest rate of Covid infections in the state. The state agency said 16% of the population has tested positive. Total cases in the county since the pandemic started in March 2020 stand at 8,447.

Poe said free home tests are still available through the federal government and delivery can be ordered by calling 800-232-0233 or going online at covidtests.gov.

She also noted that “over half the people in Malheur County are not protected from severe Covid-19 with the safe and effective vaccines.”

The state health agency listed Malheur County as having the second-lowest vaccination rate in the state.

Poe said the county health agency is still providing vaccinations that come with a $25 gift card to Albertsons with each dose. She said the current recommendations are:

•Primary vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.

•A three-dose series for those 6 months to 4 years old.

•A two-dose series for those 5 and older.

•Boosters for all over age 5.

•A second booster for those 50 and older and those over 12 who are immunocompromised.

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