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New daily records of COVID-19 cases set in Oregon, Jackson County

Health officials Thursday reported the most new cases of COVID-19 in both the state of Oregon and Jackson County since the pandemic began.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 375 confirmed and presumptive cases statewide, while Jackson County Public Health reported 15 new cases.

The previous statewide record — 281 — was set Wednesday, July 1. The agency also noted the death of a 73-year-old Klamath County woman reported Wednesday by Klamath County Public Health.

As of Thursday, Oregon had recorded 209 deaths and 9,294 cases of the illness.

Umatilla County reported the most cases Thursday, with 88. Washington County reported 67, while Multnomah County saw 64.

“Oregon has experienced five weeks of case growth, and cases are rising faster in our rural communities and in Central and Eastern Oregon,” OHA said in a news release.

Jackson County is up to 131 cases of COVID-19, with 65 people considered recovered, and 66 still sick. The new definition of a “recovered” patient is one who is alive “60 days after the earliest of illness onset or the first positive test,” according to the public health website. Previously, it was applied to patients who were symptom-free for 72 hours.

In an email, OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie said the state’s definition change reflects a “shift in resources” at the state level.

“Rather than calling each individual case to assess recovery, we are now relying on a ‘60-day rule,’” Modie said. “Any confirmed or presumptive case who is alive 60 days after the ... their onset of symptoms or collection of their first positive test will be considered recovered. Our epidemiologists are using the time that had been spent on assessing recovery to perform case investigations and contact tracing.”

Jackson County’s new cases included people who caught the virus at work, during travel, and at social gatherings.

“Those are kind of the trends we’re seeing,” said Tanya Phillips, health promotion program manager for Jackson County Public Health.

Local trends also point to more cases affecting younger patients. Phillips said younger people have more chances for exposure, as they are typically more mobile, have more social interactions, and are more likely to have returned to the workplace instead of working from home or sheltering in place.

“They have more of these risks for possible exposure,” Phillips said.

In spite of the increase in the number of young people getting sick, the disease locally is spread pretty evenly among various age groups, Phillips said.

The number of tests administered in Jackson County has continued to increase since the week of April 20. That week, local health officials performed 403 tests. During the week of June 22 — the latest week available — they administered 1,367 tests.

Phillips said the increase in local cases isn’t due to “ramped up” testing. More area residents have been symptomatic, she added.

“We are seeing that ratio [of positive tests] increase, which does tell us, yes, [Jackson County is] seeing more cases,” Phillips said.

In spite of the uptick in local testing, Providence Medford Medical Center and Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center said they still have adequate testing supplies on hand.

Health officials urged caution heading into the Independence Day weekend, encouraging people to wear masks, practice physical distancing and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.

“I know it’s difficult when you get family gatherings. We trust one another. We’re friends, we’re family. You would tell me if you’re sick. COVID isn’t playing out that way,” Phillips said. “We need everyone to practice those preventative measures, even in those smaller social gatherings with friends and family, people who are outside of the household.”

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.