MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County Public Health confirmed on Monday that it is investigating multiple coronavirus outbreaks at local long-term care facilities, apparently spurred by increasing spread from private social gatherings — inevitably bringing infection to places where people vulnerable to the virus live.
The agency says that it is currently investigating nine outbreaks at separate facilities. The one specifically identified by officials on Monday was Avamere Three Fountains, where testing has found a total of 54 cases, including eight staff members and 46 residents. One of the recent COVID-19 deaths in Jackson County was an Avamere resident, Jackson County Public Health indicated.
Small social gatherings with family and friends are still the main factor in increased spread, and public health officials say that those gatherings "play a significant role" in the virus reaching long-term care facilities.
“The increase of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is a serious concern; these are our most vulnerable populations in these facilities. We must think about how our actions outside of work can have serious consequences for other people, especially when it is your job to care for vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Health Officer.
The Avamere investigation began on November 3, and Jackson County Public Health says that Avamere has been cooperating with the agency in its contact tracing efforts.
"Among adults, the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age," the agency said. "For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older. There are also other factors that can increase your risk for severe illness, such as having underlying medical conditions."
Monday's report from Jackson County included a somewhat-subdued, but still high, count of 41 new cases, bringing the county total since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,382. At least 548 cases are still considered active infections, and hospitalizations are up to 156 since March.
Governor Kate Brown announced a two-week "pause" in five Oregon counties on Friday, Jackson County among them, in an attempt to curb surging spread of the virus without taking the more drastic step of rolling back reopening phases. That pause includes the following measures beginning Wednesday:
- Urging all businesses to mandate work from home to the greatest extent possible.
- Pausing long-term care facility visits that take place indoors to protect staff and residents.
- Reducing maximum restaurant capacity to 50 people (including customers and staff) for indoor dining, with a maximum party size of six. Continuing to encourage outdoor dining and take out.
- Reducing the maximum capacity of other indoor activities to 50 people (includes gyms, fitness organizations/studios, bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor sports, pools, and museums).
- Limiting social gatherings to your household, or no more than six people if the gathering includes those from outside your household, reducing the frequency of those social gatherings (significantly in a two-week period), and keeping the same six people in your social gathering circle.