MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County has once again hit a new record for coronavirus cases, with public health officials reporting that last week's new cases outstripped the all-time high set earlier in August.
Jackson County Public Health said that there were 1,947 new cases last week, easily surpassing the previous record of 1,500 set just a few weeks ago.
As of Monday morning, there were 205 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Jackson and Josephine County hospitals, and 58 patients in an intensive care unit. JCPH also reported three new deaths attributed to the virus, bringing Jackson County's death toll to 202 since the beginning of the pandemic.
With cases and hospitalizations continuing to rise, public health officials are still urging the public to do their part in order to curb viral spread — by wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and avoiding gatherings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
As bad as things have been for much of August, there's now an additional wrinkle to the current public health landscape — the return of students to classrooms.
Already, there have been delays to in-person learning due to the prevalence of COVID-19. Southern Oregon University announced that it would delay the start of on-campus classes into October, and the Rogue River School District had to postpone the start of the Junior/Senior High School due to quarantines of key staff.
"It can be safe, I think," said Tanya Phillips, health promotion manager for JCPH. "I think the schools are doing the best that they can, you know, following the state and ODE guidance about masking and making sure that teachers and staff are vaccinated, and making sure that they have access to those resources — but again, it's going to take the community to make sure that kids can go back to school safely because a lot of kids aren't eligible right now for the vaccine, so they don't have that choice. Their only protective measures are adults getting vaccinated and then making sure that people are wearing masks."
The weekend also brought sobering news from Josephine County, where officials have requested refrigerated trucks to hold bodies as mortality rates exceed the local capacity to adequately handle them. According to Phillips, Jackson County is looking at its contingency plans, but is not on the verge of making a similar request.
"Right now Jackson County is not at that point, but we are definitely being prepared for . . . if we do hit that point, that we know what we're doing, and being able to make those asks of internal partners of the County or asking for resources from the state," Phillips said.