Angelica Resendiz, a registered nurse with the Malheur County Health Department shows one of the syringes used to deliver flu vaccine. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

Malheur County reported 85 new cases of Covid from Tuesday, Aug. 31, breaking the previous daily record set over a year ago.

This brings the county case total to 4,236, according to data from the Oregon Health Association.

The reported cases from Tuesday surpassed the previous county record of 68 set on July 7, 2020, according to data from the Malheur County Health Department.

Cases have been on the rise in Malheur County with more cases every week since early July.

Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department, said that the situation has been worsened by cases rising across Oregon and Idaho, reduced health care capacity and low vaccination rates.

“The solution to most of this is to be vaccinated,” Poe said. “The vaccine is safe, effective, free and widely available.”

The county’s weekly case count increased ninefold between the weeks of July 18 and Aug. 22, which saw 154 cases.

As cases have surged in the last month, more Malheur County residents have been getting the vaccine. On Aug. 1, the weekly average for vaccinations was 30 per day. By the end of the month, that average was 49 doses per day.

The vaccine is the most effective way to protect the community from Covid, according to local, state and national health experts.

Last week, 42 doctors, physician assistants, pediatricians, pharmacists and other professionals from the region signed a letter to the community asking people to get vaccinated.

“Our ethical obligation is to provide the best care based on scientific data from reliable sources,” the letter reads. “We do not take our responsibility lightly and have committed our careers to benefit the health and wellbeing of others.”

The county currently has the lowest vaccination rate in the state for total population, at 34%. The statewide vaccination rate is 61.7%, according to the OHA.

Locally, there has been resistance to statewide masking mandates and to vaccination requirements for state employees, health care workers and school staff. That resistance has been visible in public protest, a petition from the County Sheriff and on Monday when the Adrian School Board fired its superintendent for obeying the state mask mandate.

A drive-thru testing and vaccination clinic in Ontario yesterday found 30 of the yesterday’s 85 positive cases in Malheur County, according to Angie Sillonis, the department’s public information officer. She said the event tested 278 people total.

The health department is currently hiring three more contact tracers to assist with data collection during the surge.

News tip? Contact reporter Abbey McDonald at [email protected]

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