MEDFORD, Ore. — Public health officials in Jackson County continue to sound the alarm about unprecedented spread of coronavirus, largely attributed to the highly-contagious Delta variant that is now believed to account for the vast majority of infections in Oregon.
Jackson County Public Health reported last Friday the highest daily count of new cases since the pandemic began — beating even the winter peaks. On Monday, the agency added that last week produced the highest weekly case count since the beginning of the pandemic, with 626 new cases.
"Jackson County Public Health is continuing to see a sharp increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 outbreaks, and people hospitalized for COVID-19 at an alarming rate," the agency said in a statement. "Jackson County has a high level of transmission per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 data tracker."
The agency reported 132 new cases as of Monday morning, with includes cases from over the weekend. There were 83 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Jackson and Josephine counties, with 23 in intensive care. JCPH also reported the death of an 81-year-old woman.
The CDC's new mask guidance, released last week, urged people in areas of high or substantial transmission to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. The Oregon Health Authority and JCPH quickly followed suit, reiterating those recommendations as the state began rapidly seeing the effects of Delta variant transmission.
By the CDC's critera, Jackson County has a "high" level of transmission.
Across the U.S., COVID-19 cases increased about 300 percent between June 19 and July 23, driven by the Delta variant. JCPH noted that the three vaccines still offer high levels of protection against severe illness and death from the Delta and other variants. The difference with Delta, based on current CDC data, is that it can result in high viral loads in both unvaccinated and vaccinated people who become infected, resulting in increased risk of transmission.
"Unlike with other variants, this raises the concern that vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta virus can transmit the virus," JCPH said.
Local public health officials continue to highly recommend that everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 vaccination, as it still represents the best way to stop the spread of Delta. Due to the spike in cases, low local vaccination rate, and the prevalence of the Delta variant, JCPH is also still recommending that everyone age 5 and older wear face coverings indoors when in public.