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Fourth Jackson County COVID-19 case under investigation

Jackson County Public Health reported one new COVID-19 case Wednesday morning, bringing Jackson County's total cases to four.

The department is investigating the case to identify how the person was exposed to the disease and identify and isolate/quarantine any individuals who may have been in close contact with the person, according to a news release.

"I think it's safe to say it's community spread," saidDr. Jim Shames, medical director for the county, in a video interview Wednesday. "It didn't come from international travel."

The announcement comes just one day after Public Health reported Jackson County's third COVID-19 case, which was also the first instance of community spread identified by the department.

As with the previous case, Shames offered no identifying information about the patient: no age, no sex.

"One (reason) is that it becomes less relevant the more cases there are," he said, noting that the statewide rate of new cases being identified daily continues to increase. "It's happening very quickly. We're doing everything we can to preserve people's privacy."

When it comes to letting the public know where the infected person may have been during the time they've been contagious, Shames said that health officials have a different set of considerations than with other infectious diseases, such as measles.

"Measles is an airborne disease," he said. "The virus can spread great distances through the air and it is exquisitely contagious. You combine those things together, and the public messaging around measles might be different than (tuberculosis)."

Or, he said, COVID-19, which is primarily transmitted through droplets.

"The cautions are different, the recommendations are different," he said. When it comes to identifying public areas that a COVID-19 patient may have only passed through, "we don't want to get the public fearfully being concerned about a situation where their risk is extremely low."

Right now, health care workers are only testing people who are symptomatic, he said.

"We don't have the (personal protective equipment) to do it, we don't have the testing materials," he said. "It would bump somebody out of line who really needs the test."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.