The Malheur County Health Department will host a drive-thru COVID-19 testing Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds. (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – Local public health officials hope a large-scale testing event set this week will help uncover crucial information to measure and stop the spread of Covid in Malheur County.

The event is scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds. The drive-thru testing is free and no insurance is needed. Results from the tests are expected to be available within seven days. Free flu shots will also be offered at the event for people without insurance.

The Covid testing is open to anyone age 7 and above, said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.

“We have better testing capacity and want to take advantage of that,” said Poe.

Poe said the county still “likely has a lot of asymptomatic spread.”

“We need to do more testing of people who just don’t have symptoms. It takes surveillance testing on a large scale to identify cases in the community to be able to stop the spread,” said Poe.

Poe said she encourages everyone to participate in the testing event.

Poe said her staff anticipates “a bit of a wait time.”

“So we are asking for people’s patience,” said Poe. “We hope people will come down as early as possible.”

Poe said the event will dwarf earlier testing sessions.

“We have 500 tests. The most we ever did before was 243 at the fairgrounds. So, this is a huge undertaking for one day,” said Poe.

Meanwhile, the condition of the Covid epidemic among county residents showed modest signs of improvement the week ending Oct. 3.

The health department reported 81 new Covid cases last week, one of the lowest numbers of infections since late June. However, the county’s cumulative Covid positive rate stood at 23.4%, still far above the state goal of 5%.

“I do think our numbers are getting somewhat better. The number of tests reported is still not as high as it needs to be but I do agree things are perhaps getting better,” said Poe.

The health department has tested 7,527 people so far since the pandemic started locally in late March, resulting in 5,759 negative tests.

According to the health department as of Sunday there at 1,768 positive Covid infections in the county.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377. 

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