MEDFORD, Ore. — Though Jackson County's capacity to administer coronavirus vaccines continues to grow, public health officials are sounding the alarm about a growing spike in COVID-19 cases to an extent not seen in months.
Jackson County Public Health reported 93 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily total since January 28. The latest report brings Jackson County past 10,000 cases since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
"The increase in cases is incredibly alarming," said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County's health officer. "We are in a race between people getting vaccinated and the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants."
Shames underlined that mutations occur as viruses replicate, creating the new variants. Some of them — like the "UK variant," B.1.1.7 — are believed to spread even more rapidly than the original strain of SARS CoV-2.
"All currently authorized vaccines provide a good level of protection against SARS CoV-2, including the variant B.1.1.7. No vaccine provides 100 percent protection, but the current vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from getting the illness and becoming severely ill. We can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by individuals getting vaccinated as soon as they can with the vaccine that is available," said Shames.
Jackson County Public Health's vaccination site at the Expo has been expanding its ability to administer doses, particularly with the addition of a FEMA-backed community vaccination clinic that opened this week. The original public health site continues to operate as a walk-through clinic offering the Moderna vaccine, while the FEMA clinic operates as a drive-through site providing the Pfizer vaccine.
"We are encouraging people to get vaccinated as soon as they can. Now that everyone 16 years and older is eligible to get the vaccine, this means that our community can have greater protection against COVID-19, slow the spread of this virus, and return to some of the activities we have been longing to enjoy," said Tanya Phillips, health promotion manager for Jackson County Public Health.
Phillips stressed that the Expo site has "plenty of availability" for vaccinations. While appointments are encouraged, the walk-through Moderna clinic does not require them. The clinic is open until 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the last time slot at 5:45 p.m.
The Pfizer vaccine, offered at the drive-through site, is approved for people 16 and 17 years old. For the time being, the Moderna vaccine is approved for people 18 and older. Both sites have availability, Jackson County Public Health said.
In addition to the spike in cases, Jackson County reported two more deaths attributed to COVID-19 on Wednesday. A 42-year-old man tested positive on March 25 and died April 18 at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. A 67-year-old man tested positive on March 29 and also died April 18 at Asante.
The two latest fatalities bring Jackson County's death toll from COVID-19 to 129. Both men had underlying health conditions.
Officials said that they are also investigating a pair of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. An investigation at the Murphy Softwood Veneer Plant that began on April 13 has produced nine linked cases, while a separate investigation at Goodwill that began on April 15 has found six cases. Both investigations are ongoing.