Health officials hope that testing and vaccine events will help the community.(The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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ONTARIO – The Malheur County Health Department warned Monday that because Covid cases aren’t dropping, more hospitalizations and deaths should be expected in the region. 

Reported case rates have more or less held steady around 200 cases per week during the period from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3. Data for the second week in October isn’t yet available. 

“Comparatively, we never had a week with over 200 cases prior to six weeks ago. Now we’ve had four weeks out of the last six with over 200 cases,” said a press release from the health department.

The county has recorded 5,379 cases since the start of the pandemic and 73 deaths. Testing for Covid has shown nearly 1 in 5 people tested have the coronavirus

The agency said it was “too soon to know” if the Covid surge has peaked. 

“Malheur has averaged 5-7% of cases hospitalized in the previous month and with so many newly reported cases, we will likely see more hospitalizations and death in the next few weeks,” the statement said.

The health department emphasized that Malheur County residents can take preventative measures to slow the spread of Covid. Officials recommend that people get tested for Covid if they have symptoms or suspect they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Other strategies include staying home when sick, wearing a mask while in public, and postponing indoor gatherings. 

“The most effective way to protect yourself and those around you is to be vaccinated,” said the agency said.

The health department has free Covid testing and vaccine events at the Malheur County Fairgrounds at 795 N.W. 9th St. in Ontario on Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the rest of October. Vaccine recipients get a $25 gift card with each dose. 

Booster shots (third doses) are also available there for Pfizer recipients ages 18 and up. Booster shots have not yet been made available for recipients of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines. 

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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