MEDFORD, Ore. -- Public health officials in Jackson and Josephine held a joint virtual press conference on Monday afternoon to discuss the rise in coronavirus cases across southern Oregon and explain how the two counties are working together.
By Monday, Josephine County had identified 11 cases within the past week, while Jackson County reported 18 cases.
Contact tracing from many of the recent Rogue Valley cases have a culprit in common, officials said — a combination of travel and socializing without proper precautions. In some cases, people have traveled to the area from higher-risk states and then mingled with local groups, quickly spreading the virus.
Many of the most recent cases have been linked to just two private parties that took place the weekend before last, each with 15 to 30 participants. Contact tracing related to those parties is still under way.
That behavior has officials concerned about the coming Fourth of July holiday, they said. People are asked to wear masks properly, wash hands diligently, know who is in attendance for potential contact tracing, and have people bring their own food and beverages.
Jackson County health officer Dr. Jim Shames said that he does not advise social gatherings at all, particularly if proper precautions aren't being followed.
Both counties anticipate a continued spike in cases. Over the past several weeks, new cases have skewed toward the younger population and there have been fewer hospitalizations — but that is likely to change. If cases to continue to spread, Dr. Shames said, there is a higher change that it will reach more vulnerable groups.
Josephine County health officer Dr. David Candelaria said that the new statewide mask requirement announced by Governor Brown on Monday has merit, and he hopes that people "adopt new behavior and not stay entrenched in old behavior." Dr. Shames agreed, expressing his surprise at how few people are taking face coverings seriously.
Officials said that staff from Jackson and Josephine counties meet regularly to share information and help track cases that often straddle county lines.
Jackson County Public Health reported five new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 114. As of Monday, at least 65 people were considered recovered from the virus.
"Jackson County Public Health also recommends that face coverings made from cloth or paper be worn in social settings that consist of people outside the immediate household," the agency said. "Face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders. Masks with valves are not recommended; these types of masks filter air being inhaled, but do not filter air that is exhaled and can project the germs, exposing others."
"COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs," Jackson County continued. "COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Face coverings can slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus from transmitting it to others. Wearing a face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants). Overall, face coverings worn by others protect you from getting the virus from people carrying the virus."
A total of 11,852 have been tested for the virus in Jackson County. So far 10 people have been hospitalized for the virus, most of them in older age groups.
Klamath County Public Health reported 4 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, bringing the County total to 122. County officials say that 52 of those cases have recovered and are no longer active.
"It is vital that members of our community continue to practice all recommended personal actions at work, in public, and in social circles," the agency said. "It can be easy to feel more secure and protected when with family and friends, but we all must be mindful about developing a false sense of security in these settings."
"Now, more than ever, it is critically important for everyone to protect themselves and others through personal actions," Klamath County continued. "It is also important to remember that each action alone does not provide total protection, and that all recommendations must be followed to best reduce risk of exposure."
As of Monday, Klamath County said that it had processed 5,085 tests.
Josephine County Public Health reported six new positive cases on Monday, bringing the county total to 37 total cases. Of the new cases, four are presumptive and two are confirmed
Public Health officials said they were notified of the cases on June 28 and 29 by the official medical record system provided by the Oregon Health Authority.
"Josephine County Public Health is investigating all cases to identify contacts and exposures and to isolate and monitor all individuals relevant to the cases," the agency said. "Public Health will reach out to anyone suspected of exposure to COVID-19."
Of the 37 total cases, 26 people have recovered and one person died from complications relating to a COVID-19 infection. The county marked the first death attributed to the virus in southern Oregon on April 11, an 81-year-old man.
Lake County last reported 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
"Continue to use face coverings and practice social distancing if you are in public," Lake Health District. "Practice regular handwashing and sanitize frequently used items. If you are sick, stay home."
Curry County last reported a total of 7 cases, all considered recovered. 627 people had tested negative for the virus as of the last report.
Siskiyou County officials last reported 28 total confirmed cases in the county. 24 of those cases have since recovered.
Officials say that Siskiyou County has tested 3,278 people. 3,184 tests have been negative. There are 66 tests currently awaiting results.
Total number of cases (presumptive and confirmed) by county for the southern Oregon and Siskiyou County region:
- Jackson: 114 (65 recovered)
- Klamath: 118 (52 recovered)
- Josephine: 37 (26 recovered, 1 death)
- Lake: 6
- Curry: 7 (7 recovered)
- Siskiyou: 28 (24 recovered)
Tune into NewsWatch 12 at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. tonight for the most up to date Coronavirus numbers and information.