The Malheur County Health Department reported Thursday a rising number of Covid outbreaks in the county. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

This story has been updated.

ONTARIO – The Malheur County Health Department announced today a rising number of Covid outbreaks in Ontario and Vale.

There are Covid outbreaks at Vale High School, Vale Elementary School and the Malheur County Jail, according to a health department press release.

The health department also reports Covid outbreaks at Fry Foods, Baker & Murakami Produce Company in Ontario and at Snake River Correctional Institution.

“This is potentially bigger than we know about because there actually hasn’t been that much testing,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.

Poe said the sudden burst of positive Covid cases is alarming.

“It is a lot of cases in a small area in three weeks. We are asking people to very careful and follow precautions,” said Poe.

About eight students have tested positive for Covid in the Vale School District, said Poe.

“It is really so sad to me. Because new cases do mean will mean some people will have severe cases and some people will die,” said Poe.

Poe said outbreaks are “tied to so many people in high-risk settings.”

“So, the potential for spread to new areas is increased,” said Poe. “The ripple effects to an outbreak are so much more than one person.”

The news of the outbreaks is especially poignant for the Vale School District, which opened up for in-person instruction Jan. 19.

Poe said the best way to stop an outbreak is the by now tried and true methods of social distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands.

“We are asking people to be very careful and follow precautions,” said Poe.

In the latest weekly update from the Oregon Health Authority – for the week beginning Jan. 17 and ending Jan. 23 – Malheur County recorded 218.5 cases per 100,000 people, the third highest in the state behind Umatilla and Lake counties.

The Oregon Health Authority reports workplace outbreaks with five or more cases and only for workplaces with at least 30 workers.

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