MEDFORD, Ore. — Public health officials in Jackson County say that three more positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been found in the county, bringing the total to seven. Officials also released more details about the demographics of the cases they have seen so far.
"Of the three new cases, one is between the ages of 30-39 and two are between the ages of 70 to 79," Jackson County said. "All cases are believed to be community-acquired. Jackson County Public Health is working to identify and isolate/quarantine any individuals who may have been in close contact with the cases."
Three of the known cases in Jackson County are between the ages of 50-59, three are between the ages of 70-79, and one between the ages of 30-39, officials said. Fifty-seven percent are male and 43 percent are female. Two of the six cases acquired the infection through travel, but all of the latest five are from community spread.
“Jackson County has entered the phase of rapid community spread of Covid-19,” says Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Health Officer. “What we are seeing now reflects how well we accomplished personal distancing a week ago. How well we isolate ourselves now will determine how much illness we have next week.”
Previous statements from Jackson County have given few identifying features about the cases, which has been typical for public health authorities in southern Oregon up to this point. In past interviews, officials have cited privacy concerns as the reason for keeping these details confidential. In smaller communities, the risk of a COVID-19 patient being "outed" are much higher, likely to be accompanied by an unwarranted level of stigma.
Officials in southern Oregon have preferred to use back-tracking investigations to quietly contact any people who have been in close quarters with the individual, followed by quarantine and monitoring for symptoms.
On Tuesday Jackson County Public Health announced its third case — believed to be a result of community spread, the first case in the area not found to be travel-related.
"There is no known travel-related exposure or contact with a known case. Therefore, this is believed to be community-acquired," officials said on Tuesday. "Jackson County Public Health is working to identify and isolate/quarantine any individuals who may have been in close contact with the person in the last 14 days."
The first two cases were announced on March 7. Jackson County officials said that both were individuals that had traveled to areas with more active spread of the virus, and both were being isolated at home.
With the latest test results in Oregon and across the United States, there is more evidence of active community spread of COVID-19, and Jackson County said that this is something they have expected to see in Oregon and in Jackson County.
Governor Kate Brown released new executive orders that take additional steps to ensure that Oregonians stay home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 on Monday.
Under the new executive orders are directives for individuals to maintain social distancing. These directives state during the ongoing state of emergency that, to the maximum extent possible, individuals are to stay home or at their place of residence.
"We understand the difficulties of practicing social distancing, this is not something we are used to doing, and we miss being close to family and friends," Jackson County said in a statement. "But, by practicing social distancing and staying home, we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting those who are more likely to suffer severe complications from COVID-19. Those most vulnerable are include adults 60 and older, or anyone with a serious health condition, including lung or heart disease, diabetes, or anyone who has a suppressed immune system."
- Stay home as much as possible; this includes kids
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others any time you are out
- Go out only for essentials (groceries and medical care)
- Exercise outside (hiking, biking) only if you can be 6 feet apart from others
- Have video and phone chats
- Drop food off to neighbors who can’t go out
- Gather in groups
- Get together with friends (no drinks or dinners)
- Have playdates for kids
- Make unnecessary trips
"Social distancing is the most critical action Jackson County residents need to take right now in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of the community," health officals said. "By slowing the spread of COVID-19, we are flattening the curve. The curve is the number of people projected to contract COVID-19. The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker the local healthcare system gets overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people. By slowing the infection rate, the infection curve flattens, allowing our healthcare system to operate and care for those who need it. Stay home and save a life."