MEDFORD, Ore. — Public health officials in Jackson County say that five more positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been confirmed in the county as of Tuesday morning, bringing the total to 27.
Over the past week, Jackson County Public Health has said that the area is now in the phase of "rapid community spread" of coronavirus.
Since Tuesday, officials have maintained that these cases did not indicate any hot spots in the county — rather they are equally distributed throughout, demonstrating "spread that is widespread."
“It is best that everyone be cautious and not assume that one location is safer than another,” said Jackson Baures, Jackson County Public Health Division Manager. “COVID-19 is spreading in our community, and this is why practicing social distancing, that includes staying home and minimizing outings, is so critical right now.”
On Wednesday, Jackson County Public Health made a significant shift in its recommendations for locals, advocating for people to begin using cloth masks when going out in public.
"Jackson County Public Health is NOT recommending that you purchase manufactured surgical masks, please save them for the healthcare workers that rely on them for protection," the agency said. "According to Dr. Jim Shames, 'when we both wear a face mask, I protect you and you protect me.'"
There has been mounting evidence to suggest that people who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic may still be spreading the virus from droplets produced by talking or coughing. The goal of wearing a mask is to create a physical barrier to block those droplets, while also helping to keep the wearer from touching their faces.
In some cases, the County has released demographic information about the diagnosed individuals, although not in the most recent cases. While cases have skewed toward people age 50 or above, there have been several instances of people in their 30s.
According to Jackson County Public Health, there are a number of reasons to reconsider wearing a cloth mask:
- We now know that some people are contagious before they ever get symptoms and some never feel sick. They might spread the disease before they would ever consider masking up.
- Droplets do indeed transmit the disease, but they can be generated from talking as well as coughing. Just standing next to someone talking could spread the disease if neither of you are masked.
- Wearing a mask while sick is stigmatizing for those who wear them. Universal use wouldn’t identify who was sick and who wasn’t.
- You are less likely to touch your mouth and nose while wearing a mask
- DIY masks can possibly provide protection to the public without impacting the supply of manufactured masks currently prioritized for healthcare workers. If the medical community accepts the use of these masks in the healthcare setting, then these masks will be available and ready to go.
- There is data that suggests that in countries where masking is encouraged for all citizens, the rate of disease transmission may be reduced by their actions.
Volunteers are making these masks locally using various patterns. The principle is the same regardless of design. Having a physical barrier to prevent droplets from landing on others, discouraging the wearers from touching their faces, and possibly reducing large droplets from landing on mucous membranes are the goals for wearing masks in public. And they look good.
If you choose to wear a mask, be careful when adjusting the mask and avoid reaching under it (they itch) to touch your nose or mouth because the virus can spread by unwashed hands. Also, masks do not work well if they are soiled or damaged.
There are a variety of reusable masks available online at websites like Amazon.com. Search keywords “reusable masks.” Here is one example of a simple no-sew homemade mask.