Local government

County health department plans vaccination event as Covid persists

ONTARO – The Covid pandemic arrived in a wave of fear, delivered anxiety and triggered government and business shutdowns but two years later what was once a mighty scourge is now regulated to the catacombs of the daily news cycle.
Yet virus is still active, still a threat and still killing people.
But reported Covid cases and deaths in Malheur County are at an all-time low. For the week ending Sept. 25, the Malheur County Health Department reported five Covid cases – far below the 553 cases reported on Jan. 16. The January count seemed to be the peak of the last major Covid outbreak with the number of cases dropping significantly after.
The last Covid death in Malheur County was reported Aug. 14.
Yet the danger remains, said Sarah Poe, health department director.
“For people who do not have immunity and for those who are at a high risk, Covid is still a serious risk,” said Poe.
Malheur County continues to lag most other counties in the state regarding vaccinations. More than 11,000 people in the county have completed a full series of Covid vaccinations and 52% of the population has received at least one Covid vaccine inoculation.
In Harney County 57% of the population has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine while in Baker County, the figure is 58%.
In Lake County 48.3% of the population received at least one dose of vaccine.
The specter of major shutdowns – a fact of life in the early days of the pandemic – faded as well, mainly because of the availability of vaccines, said Poe.
“We would not encourage any more shutdowns or restrictions as long as we still have access to vaccines and our hospitals are able to take care of the people who are ill,” said Poe.
The ongoing vaccination campaign remains a priority, said Poe.
“We need people to take advantage of those vaccines. We are still vaccinating quite a few people,” said Poe.
Poe said the health department will sponsor five vaccine events at area food processing businesses and a mass testing for influenza and Covid on Friday, Oct. 14, at Four Rivers Cultural Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Just because you are vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t be infected. What it does mean is these vaccines are very good at reducing the severity of the disease,” said Poe.
Poe said she is concerned that seasonal flu could make a comeback.
“Our numbers have been so low for two years. There is a heighted risk at some point. So, it is really important, especially for people that are higher risk, to get a flu shot and a (Covid) booster,” said Poe.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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