GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Josephine County Board of Commissioners on Friday issued a statement encouraging members of the local community to "consult with a trusted health care provider about their personal approach to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass has been over-capacity and overwhelmed with the influx of COVID-19 patients for weeks now, and hospitalizations have yet to abate since the surge began to ramp up in the first half of August.
Win Howard, CEO and senior vice-president at Asante Three RIvers, joined with a group of five other healthcare professionals on August 17 in a presentation to the Board of Commissioners. Howard said that they asked the Board to support masking, support social distancing, and encourage constituents to talk to their medical providers about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
"That was our ask, and we asked them to be 'a voice of one' around that," Howard told NewsWatch 12 later that day. "That was the purpose of meeting with them, and for them to understand the seriousness of where we are as a community at this point. So, I think it was clear — we got the message across, I think they heard us, and we'll see how they respond."
Now, more than two weeks later, the Board has indeed issued a response in conjunction with Josephine County Public Health.
“COVID-19 is spreading in our community, and it is likely that our residents may be exposed to the virus as they go about their daily activities,” Commissioner Darin Fowler said. “It is therefore necessary for each member of our community to make a choice about what is best for their personal health in that circumstance.”
The Board's statement acknowledges that choices can include vaccination, noting that three vaccines are currently authorized to slow the spread of COVID-19. To make an appointment or learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations, Josephine County residents can visit the County's website or call (541) 916-7030.
"Of concern is the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is the dominant strain in Oregon and has been confirmed as present in Josephine County," Josephine County said in its statement. "A mutation of the original COVID-19 virus, the Delta variant spreads more easily between individuals than other variants."
As of September 3, Josephine County has logged a total of 7,673 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been 140 deaths attributed to COVID-19, 607 hospitalizations, and 449 total outbreaks.
Josephine County's vaccination rate among adults is 54.2 percent, or 38,512 people who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Neighboring Jackson County, which along with Josephine County comprises the Oregon Health Authority’s Hospital Region 5, has a vaccination rate of 60.4 percent among adults.
“We encourage residents to wear a face covering while in public indoor spaces and in crowded outdoor areas,” said Mike Weber, Josephine County Public Health director. “A mask that covers both the nose and mouth and keeping a distance of six feet from others can reduce the potential for transmission of the virus.”
This week, hundreds of Rogue Valley healthcare professionals signed onto a brief statement urging members of the community to trust their advice and get the COVID-19 vaccine. By Friday evening, the number of names endorsing the same statement had reached nearly 500:
“You trust us to care for you. You trust us to care for your parents and your children. Please trust us when we encourage you to get vaccinated against Covid-19. It is safe, effective, and may save your life or the life of someone you love. We’ve been vaccinated, and hope you will too.”