ONTARIO – Malheur County is in danger again of facing increased restrictions on dining, sporting events and other activities and Covid cases tick up in the area as they have across the country.

Malheur County’s latest two-week count of 24 positive cases (which equals a rate of 75 positive cases per 100,000 people), as well as its test positivity rate of 5.1%, qualify the county to be moved to a “moderate” risk category for the coronavirus. The county is currently at the lowest ranking made by the state.

Because the increase occurred during a “warning week,” Malheur County has until next Tuesday to get its levels back down. New data next week will drive the state’s action on whether to to change the county’s risk level - and restrictions.

With 10 more Covid cases reported in most recent period than had been reported over the previous two weeks, the county’s positivity rate shot up by nearly 76%. The 5.1% positivity rate is a strong contrast with the previous two weeks’ rate of 2.9%. 

“These numbers are concerning, given the rise in cases throughout the country and the increase in the presence of variants in and around Oregon and Idaho,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department directo. 

If the county is reclassified as “moderate risk,” there would be a lower capacity for outdoor dining and churches, and earlier closing times for restaurants and entertainment. 

“As partners with Malheur County, the city of Ontario wants to see our businesses operate at their fullest capacity under the circumstances to maintain the economic health of our community,” said Adam Brown, Ontario city manager, in a statement Wednesday. “Vaccinations are proven to be one of the ways to keep case rates down. We urge you, for the sake of our business community and working families, to prioritize getting everyone in your household vaccinated.”

Despite the efforts of the Malheur County Health Department, which has been hosting a weekly Covid vaccination clinic since January, the county has the second-worst rate of vaccination in the state, behind only Umatilla County

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at liliana@malheurenterprise.com or 267-981-5577.

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