JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. — Public health officials in Josephine County say that an 81-year-old man has died from the new coronavirus — marking the first recorded coronavirus-related death in southern Oregon.
Officials say that the man died on April 10 from complications related to the virus.
By Saturday, the state of Oregon had reported more 51 death attributed to COVID-19, but Josephine County's was the first confirmed fatality in southern Oregon. The vast majority have been in counties at the epicenter of Oregon's coronavirus outbreak — namely Multnomah, Linn, Marion, and Washington counties.
Josephine County Public Health held a press conference on Saturday afternoon at the Anne Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass to cover further details and take questions from the press.
At the press conference, Josephine County public health officer Dr. David Candelaria said that the man had been initially admitted to Asante Three Rivers Medical Center before being transferred to Asante Rogue Regional as his symptoms worsened. He passed away at Rogue Regional on Friday night.
The man was sampled for COVID-19 on March 24 after being ill for a few days prior. The diagnosis was confirmed positive on March 27.
According to the Oregon Health Authority's records, the 81-year-old did have pre-existing medical conditions. Josephine County said that OHA guidelines do not allow them to release further details on what precisely that means for an individual case such as this.
The 81-year-old and several family members were "symptomatic prior to testing," health officials said, and all of them self-isolated at the time. They are believed to have gotten the virus through community spread.
Regarding the rest of the man's family, Josephine County Public Health would say only that their condition appeared to be improving.
"This fatality is a reminder that, while some people have relatively mild courses, in others it can be fatal," said Dr. Candelaria. "We don't currently have a way to predict who will have a mild case and who will not."
The agency said that it would not release any further identifying information yet in respect for the family's privacy.
Josephine County Public Health Director Mike Weber said that his agency continues to check in with all of the county's positive cases for updates, most of which have not been hospitalized. Four people have made a full recovery.
Dr. Candelaria said that health providers in the area are continuing to transition toward telehealth in order to screen patients prior to them coming in in order to protect healthcare workers.
"PPE is in continual short supply," Dr. Candelaria said. However, he continued, the amount of PPE in Josephine County has so far been adequate for the relatively low number of cases locally.
Health officials in Josephine County last reported a new positive case of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the county total to 17. A total of 633 people have tested negative for the virus.