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Oregon governor tightens virus restrictions for Malheur County on Idaho border

Coronavirus-confirmed healthcare workers can return to work without being testing negative
Posted at 7:53 PM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-16 21:53:14-04

The Idaho Statesman contributed.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says she will restore restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Malheur County, along the Idaho border, effective Monday.

The county, whose largest city, Ontario, is across the Snake River from Fruitland and Payette, is a popular destination for near-border Idahoans seeking to avoid sales taxes — Oregon has none — and for Boise-area users to buy marijuana, which is legal in Oregon.

It’s the third eastern Oregon jurisdiction to have restrictions tightened because not enough progress has been made, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

That means swimming pools, movie theaters, bowling alleys and recreational sports leagues must shut down. Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 50 people, down from 100.

The new restrictions will remain for at least three weeks.

“Over the past month, COVID-19 cases in Malheur County have risen so much that restrictions must be put back in place or we risk further illnesses and death in the region,” Brown said in a statement. “I know this change is difficult, but immediate action is necessary in order to reduce the spread of the disease and protect all those who call Malheur County home.”

Brown allowed many counties to reopen May 15 but warned she would restore restrictions if necessary. Brown last month ordered Umatilla County back into stay-home status and moved Morrow County back into phase.

Since the pandemic began, Malheur has recorded 851 confirmed or presumed infections and 15 deaths. Malheur has the third most confirmed or presumed infections per capita, behind only Morrow and Umatilla.

The county has been on Brown’s “Watch List” since July 3, indicating that without progress restrictions could be restored.