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New Jackson County COVID-19 case believed to be community spread

A third case of COVID-19 has been detected in Jackson County, Public Health officials announced Tuesday.

The person was not known to have travel-related exposure or contact with a known case, a news release said. Therefore, the case is considered to be community-acquired.

Public Health officials are working to identify and isolate or quarantine any people who may have been in close contact with the person in the past 14 days, the release said.

“We interviewed the individual; we interviewed any close contacts — family members, et cetera — to try and find out where they’ve been, who they’ve been with, to try to go back in time to when they might have been incubating the disease,” said Dr. Jim Shames, medical director for Jackson County. “And then we reach out to all the people we need to reach out to.”

He said anyone who is thought have been in “significant contact” with the person is notified by Public Health.

“That is to say, if we did not contact you, we have not identified you as somebody who had significant risk,” Shames said.

Shames didn’t offer details about where the person may have been during the incubation period.

“If there was a major breach that we think is significant related to a business or a location, we would identify that as well,” he said.

If the person had been infected through contact with a health care facility, employees would be notified and the system would need to respond, he said.

“We know it’s in the community. This was community spread,” he said. “We don’t have enough testing to really identify how much.”

Shames declined to give any additional details on the identity of the patient, including an age range.

The first two cases of COVID-19 identified in Jackson County, made public March 7, were determined to be travel-related. This is the first known case in the county of community spread.

Shames declined to comment on the status of the earlier patients, citing a desire to protect patient privacy.

He stressed the importance of social distancing, which has been mandated by Gov. Kate Brown through executive orders that have closed schools, restricted restaurants to take-out and delivery, and closed businesses considered nonessential.

“That’s the only way we’re going to keep ourselves safe from the spread of this disease,” he said.

As did the news release from Public Health, Shames talked about the concept of “flattening the curve,” which refers to delaying the rapid spread of the virus to avoid overwhelming health care system.

He hasn’t left his own house, aside from taking walks during the day, for about a week and a half, he said.

“I just encourage people to take it seriously,” Shames said. “Trust us, we’re not trying to disrupt your lives for no good reason. The more we behave accordingly, the less impactful this is going to be for us.”