ONTARIO, Oregon — Oregon Governor Kate Brown initiated a statewide two-week freeze to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The two-week shutdown limits gatherings to six people, revert restaurants and bars to carry-out only, limits the capacity at grocery and retail stores to 75 percent with an emphasis on curbside pickup, closes down gyms and recreational amenities.
“The situation is dangerous and our hospitals have been sounding the alarm,” said Governor Brown in a press release. “I know this hard, and we are weary. But, we are trying to stop this ferocious virus from quickly spreading far and wide, and in Oregon, we can actually do this.”
If COVID-19 overwhelms our hospitals, there won’t be enough doctors, nurses, health care workers, or beds if you or a loved one need care. We can’t let that happen. That’s why COVID-19 Freeze measures take effect today. Visit https://t.co/Xgqb3p4jua to learn more. pic.twitter.com/KLYZTUlFNv
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) November 18, 2020
However, in Malheur County, which shares the border with Idaho, it also matters how Idaho reacts to COVID-19.
“I think Idaho has had one of the worst responses in the country,” said Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe. “I think that when we look back at the greatest public health crisis in a century who was on the right side of history, who helped protect their neighbor, those are the people that can stand on their integrity and know that they’ve done the right thing because this is absolutely a moral issue.”
The Snake River separates Ontario, Oregon, and Payette, Idaho, but this region is one community, and that has usually been a good thing until the pandemic came along.
Oregon, California and Washington have all issued a travel advisory asking people who come into their states to quarantine for 14 days, but that doesn’t apply to the people on the border who need to go back and forth for work, school and other essential activities.
Oregon has not reached 1,000 cases in a single day, but Idaho, which has 40 percent fewer people, has eclipsed 1,000 nearly every day for the last two weeks, including a new record of 1,781 positive cases on Tuesday.
“That should scare every single person in this area,” said Poe. “I do wish that the public would take individual responsibility, but without that, it really is the goal of public health to create safe, healthy environments for people to live in.”
Malheur County is also providing free drive-in testing leading up to Thanksgiving, Malheur County has been one of the hotspots in Oregon, but one of the reasons is they have the largest prison in the state.
“We have a variety of different tests coming to us from the Oregon Public Health Authority testing branch because we have had the highest test positivity rate in the state for a long time,” said Poe.
Here are the places and times people can access so those free tests.
All times are from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, November 19 – Vale VFHC Clinic &789 Washington St W, Vale OR, 97918)
Friday, November 20 Bi-Mart Ontario (2283 SW 4th Ave, Ontario, OR 97914)
Monday, November 23 Bi-Mart Ontario (2283 SW 4th Ave, Ontario, OR 97914)
The Malheur County Health Department also told us they are planning more testing opportunities, and people don’t need to have symptoms to get the free test.