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'Skip this Fourth,' or at least the potluck, says Jackson County Medical Director

With coronavirus numbers on the rise in Oregon during a holiday weekend, Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames recommended people reconsider their Fourth of July plans — or at least rethink them.

“There’s a lot more virus among us,” Shames said. “People need to be behaving as if they understand that.”

For those who will attend get-togethers this weekend, Shames said there are “ways to make the gathering safer.”

He recommended people steer clear of potlucks, for starters, and instead bring their own food and drinks. He also recommended people gather outdoors, maintain six feet of physical distance and wash their hands frequently.

“That’s a relatively safe way to do it,” Shames said. “But best of all ... just skip this Fourth.”

Jackson County Health and Human Services recorded nine new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the latest count here to 140. The Oregon Health Authority recorded 344 new cases statewide, pushing the statewide number to 9,294.

Nearly all of Jackson County’s newest cases are tied to “preexisting known clusters,” Shames said, which he described as, “the good news embedded in the bad news.”

“With one exception,” Shames said, the latest cases stem from outbreaks — defined as three or more infections from one place — that county health officials had been tracking among families and at local businesses.

Shames said many of the family outbreaks stemmed from graduation and Father’s Day parties. People then brought the infection home and spread it to family members.

“The commonalities are travel,” Shames said. “There’s way too much casual travel that is bringing cases into the valley from known sources of outbreaks like Arizona and California.”

The problem is exacerbated by people getting together and not following recommended guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks.

Of Jackson County’s 140 cases, 75 are active, and 65 people have recovered. No deaths have been reported in the county. Three more people were hospitalized this week, pushing that number to 13.

Local data show that the active cases include four children younger than 9, eight youth ages 10 to 19, 10 people in their 20s, 12 people in their 30s, 12 people in their 40s, 14 people in their 50s, nine people in their 60s, four people in their 70s and two people in their 80s.

The Jackson County cases consist of 28 people in Medford’s 97501 ZIP code, 23 in east Medford’s 97504, 20 in Central Point, 14 in White City and 10 in Ashland.

Eagle Point, Gold Hill, Talent and Phoenix have also recorded between 1 and 9 cases.

Shames said an outbreak reported last month at a Harry & David processing facility in Medford seems to have passed.

“That one seems to be over,” Shames said. “Hopefully it stays over.”

Some people have caught the virus at work, but Shames did not say what businesses were involved. Public health officials are required to report workplace outbreaks only if they involve five or more cases at businesses with at least 30 employees.

Shames said he’s pleased to see more people wearing masks this week, but more effort is needed, he said.

Shames said he was at a grocery store Friday morning and saw cashiers up front wearing masks, but employees in a back stockroom were standing in close proximity and not wearing masks.

“It sort of defeats the purpose,” Shames said. “We could do better, but it’s certainly better than it was.”

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

Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames recommends Southern Oregonians 'skip this Fourth' or at least take precautions over the holiday weekend. Mail Tribune file photo