Restrictions due to COVID-19 have halted gatherings including the face-to-face group meetings that have long been a mainstay of addiction treatment and counseling. (The Enterprise/file)

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ONTARIO – The Malheur County Health Department will sponsor a free drive-up Covid testing event at the Malheur County Fairgrounds Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Valley Family Health also is planning separate testing events in Vale and Ontario.

The county’s test is open to anyone and no symptoms or insurance are required.

To register for the event, go online to https://malheurhealth.org/.

“People can still come if they have not registered,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.

Poe said the advantage to registering is residents will get a specific appointment time and they can fill out the necessary paperwork before arriving.

“Having a lot of the paperwork done ahead of time is really helpful,” said Poe.

Poe said isn’t sure how many people will show for the event.

“I would be thrilled if got 200 through,” said Poe.

Poe said the testing event will be in conjunction with the Oregon Health Authority.

“They are reaching out to us, recognizing that our test positivity rates and case rate is significantly worse than the rest of the state so we are a high priority,” said Poe.

Last week, Poe said Malheur County recorded 101 Covid cases and a positive test rate of 28%. The state positive test rate baseline is 5%.

Poe said Oregon reported 54,000 Covid cases while Idaho logged 82.

Poe said the testing is especially important as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

"If you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with a small gathering, get tested today and stay home to the extent possible. The tests available at the drive-thru site are more sensitive than rapid tests and will be more effective at detecting people who are asymptomatic. While a negative test does not guarantee that you are not infectious, it is an added layer of precaution that can definitely help keep you, your family and our community safe," said Poe.

Valley Family Health Care will also be providing free Covid tests.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, tests will be available at the Valley Family clinic in Vale from 10 am to 2:30 pm.

On Friday, Nov. 20, and Monday, Nov. 23, Covid testing will take place during the same hours at the Valley Family’s mobile clinic at the Ontario Bi-Mart. 

“We are doing the rapid testing, the 15-minute testing, so people will get their results before they leave,” said Jesus Sandoval, planning and development director for Valley Family. 

Sandoval clarified that while calling ahead is encouraged, as it eases the flow of traffic on-site, there are no limitations on who qualifies to be tested for Covid. 

The testing is funded by the Oregon Health Authority and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. According to Sandoval, as of Nov. 4, Valley Family Health has conducted about 3,400 tests. 

“We know it’s important to get as many people aware of their status as possible,” said Sandoval. “We’re having some really terrible community spread right now.”

In addition to Covid testing, Valley Family Health is also encouraging clients to invest in a flu shot. Sandoval stressed that doing so can help doctors and nurses to distinguish flu symptoms from those of Covid if a person becomes ill. 

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