MEDFORD, Ore. — The week of August 16 was a dismal one for coronavirus cases in Jackson County, public health officials reported on Thursday, marking a record high for new cases in a one-week period.
Last week, public health officials recorded 130 new cases of COVID-19 — a rate of 59 cases per 100,000 in population. The test positivity rate was 9.2 percent for that week.
Perhaps the largest impact of this continued surge in cases will be for Jackson County school districts. Under Oregon's metrics, both case rate and test positivity are benchmarks for in-person classes to resume.
In order to hold in-person classes for all students, any given county must have 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people for three weeks in a row, in addition to a test positivity rate of 5 percent or less for three weeks. There is also a limitation based on statewide test positivity at 5 percent or less.
While the statewide test positivity rate has been gradually slumping over the past several weeks — nearing the 5 percent threshold — Jackson County's has only gone higher.
The state's bar is set somewhat lower for students in grades K-3. If Jackson County can reduce the spread of COVID-19 to fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 and bring test positivity back to 5 percent or less, younger kids will be allowed to return to in-person instruction. But again, Oregon's metrics require that these levels be maintained for three weeks in a row.
Jackson County Public Health reported 15 newly identified cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 762. More than 230 of those cases are still considered "active infectious."
Hospitalizations have also continued to rise, with at least 63 people hospitalized since the pandemic began — up from 10 at the beginning of July.
Neighboring Josephine and Klamath counties also reported new cases on Thursday, but neither county has seen a rise in spread comparable to Jackson County. Josephine County Public Health reported three new cases, bringing the total to 154, and Klamath County reported 4 new cases, bringing the total to 234.
Jackson County remains on the state's COVID-19 "watch list," and county health officer Dr. Jim Shames confirmed this week that the state is now helping with case investigation as public health staff work to track down the sources of community spread.