MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County continues to break records for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, with public health officials reporting at least 267 cases on Tuesday, a new record. Hospitalizations for patients infected with the virus also continued to rise locally, hitting unprecedented levels.
Jackson County's last daily record was set less than two weeks ago on July 30, with 188 cases.
"The majority of cases that we're seeing in Oregon are related to the Delta variant — we know it's more contagious, it's more serious," said Tanya Phillips, health promotion manager for Jackson County Public Health. "So we're seeing an increase in cases that I don't think, for us, we ever . . . it's always been our fear, but we didn't think that the fear would come true."
Phillips indicated that while Jackson County Public Health will report 267 cases for Tuesday, there are more case reports that public health staff have not yet been able to sort through.
"We have so many cases and not enough staff, we still have more to go through," Phillips said. "So these next few days, we will set records, again."
Across hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties, Oregon's Region 5, officials reported 136 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning. Of those people, 38 were in an intensive care unit and 14 were on a ventilator.
A report from OHSU released on Wednesday showed that hospitalizations are increasing across the state's hospital regions to rival the fall and winter peaks. The one outlier is Region 5, where OHSU noted that there is a "dramatic increase to extremely high census levels" never seen before.
"If we're talking about capacity, it's maxed," said Lauren Van Sickle, senior public relations specialist for Asante. "If we're talking about patient ages, I just got notified this morning that patients in our hospital range in age from two — that's 2 years old — to 93. So, it's shocking, it's scary, it's . . . I'm really at a loss for words."
Van Sickle said that more than 90 percent of patients currently hospitalized for COVID-19 at Asante hospitals are unvaccinated, and the patients they are seeing tend to be sicker, younger, and have a faster rate of decline in their condition with the advent of the Delta variant. According to recently corrected data from the Oregon Health Authority, 82 percent of coronavirus deaths statewide in July were among unvaccinated people.
"I think when we look at those numbers, and we think 'this could be prevented,' then the message of 'get vaccinated' really resonates," Van Sickle continued.
Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center is also dealing with an outbreak of the virus among staff, with more than 60 cases linked to the medical center since early July. A sampling of these cases were sent out for genomic sequencing, and the Oregon Health Authority said that all were identified as the Delta variant. Van Sickle said that about 64 percent of Asante employees are vaccinated.
Phillips urged people to do their part in order to curb the current unabated spread of coronavirus. That means getting vaccinated, Phillips said, but also following the current public health recommendations for wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
"Even if you're vaccinated, please wear a mask," Phillips said. "And get vaccinated. We have a tool now that we know helps prevent hospitalization, severe illness, and death. So we have a tool that works, we just need more people to access that and get that as well . . . and wear masks and do those other non-pharmaceutical interventions that we talk about."
Jackson County Public Health said on Monday that an increasing number of people have been showing up at local emergency departments to get tested for COVID-19, which complicates hospitals' efforts to respond to severe injury and illness. The agency listed the following locations as ideal for getting tested:
- Asante COVID-19 Specimen Collection Center: 1321 Center Dr., Medford OR. 541789-2233 (Referral from provider/appointment required)
- Providence Stewart Meadows Urgent Care: 70 Bower Dr. Suite 110, Medford OR. 541732-3962 (Referral from provider/appointment required)
- 210 E Barnett Rd., Medford
- 2280 W. Main St., Medford
- 433 N Front St., Central Point
- Valley Immediate Care:
- 1700 E. Barnett, Medford
- 1600 Delta Waters Suite 107, Medford
- 1401 Siskiyou Blvd. Suite 1, Ashland
- Rite Aid: 636 N. Main St., Phoenix
- La Clinic Acute Care Clinic: 616 Market St., Medford