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Malheur County experienced a drop in total Covid cases and a deep drop in the positive testing rate in the last week, according to the latest data from the Malheur County Health Department.

The agency reported the county logged 120 new cases of the coronavirus last week, compared to 132 the week before.

Infections among inmates at Snake River Correctional Institution contributed significantly to the county’s case toll, according to data posted by the Oregon Department of Corrections.

The state agency reported 77 new infections among prison inmates, accounting for more than half the cases listed for Malheur County. In the past two weeks, the prison has reported 149 new cases among inmates, pushing the prison’s total for the pandemic to 346.

The prison reports 114 employees also have tested positive for the virus.

 Overall, Malheur County’s rate of positive tests dropped to 27% - a significant drop from the 44.8% from the previous week.

But the county continues to post the worst infection rate in the state and remains on the state’s watch list.

Health authorities say that screening out the prison cases wouldn’t allow Malheur County schools to open or for other state restrictions to be eased. The county would have to have fewer than 30 new cases over three weeks and less than five in the most recent week to move towards school opening. Without inmate cases, the county still posted 43 cases in the last week.

“If the county is not meeting the school reopening metric, then we would consider rerunning numbers without the inmate cases included,” said Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Authority spokesman. “If that made the difference in case counts and the county was meeting all other metrics, we would allow school reopening.”

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