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Jackson County up to 57 coronavirus cases

In the span of six days, Jackson County has seen a 12 percent increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Two more Jackson County residents tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday, according to new Jackson County Health and Human Services data released Saturday morning, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 57.

There have now been six new cases over the past six days, marking an end to the weeks-long stretch without new cases. Jackson County’s 51st case was reported Monday, the 52nd case was reported Tuesday, the tally reached 55 on Friday and 57 on Saturday. In contrast, there were 13 days between Jackson County’s 49th case reported April 24 and 50th case reported May 6.

“I’m concerned about it,” Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County’s Medical Director said. “When you have a little outbreak anywhere, it runs the risk of happening everywhere.”

“As long as people move around, it will eventually get to you.”

Shames said he’s concerned about locals who aren’t social distancing or wearing masks when they’re out in public — especially now that Jackson County is starting to reopen.

“The disappointment to me is not that we’ve opened up, it’s just that people seem to be opening up carelessly,” Shames said. “You put all those pieces together, and I am somewhat concerned.”

Jackson County’s 57 cases make up less than 1.5% of the 3,888 cases reported across the state, according to Oregon Health Authority data updated Saturday morning. Of the state’s 147 COVID-19 deaths, none are from Jackson County.

Shames said locals did “all the right things” at the start of the pandemic and “knocked the virus way down.”

“But the fact that as we opened up people are just mingling and congregating close together — without masks — I think we’re asking for trouble,” Shames said.

“If the way you’re traveling through life now is to not wear a mask and not respect distancing,” Shames said. “It’s kinda hard to know where you got it.”

At the May 16 Faith & Freedom rally in downtown Medford, hundreds of demonstrators stood close together, and some held signs voicing opposition to wearing cloth masks.

“It’s concerning and I don’t understand,” Shames said about the opposition to facial coverings.

Patients have most frequently contracted the virus from face-to-face contact, usually indoors, when no one was wearing a mask, according to Shames. Contracting the virus from hard surfaces is far rarer.

Masks absorb droplets from the wearer’s nose and mouth, according to Shames, and are a way to prevent people — who may not know they’re infected with the coronavirus and may not have any symptoms — from inadvertently spreading COVID-19 to others.

Shames said he’d like people to see someone wearing a mask as someone making an effort to protect others.

“If you come across someone wearing a mask, that’s a statement that they’re giving to you: ‘I care enough about you as a human being that I’m going to do what I can to protect you,’” Shames said. “I think if we saw the mask in that light instead of a political statement or a personal freedom statement, then people would be more inclined to wear masks when they’re out in public.”

Shames said the virus is “politically neutral.”

“It’s not blue or red, it’s just there to infect you,” Shames said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.