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Jackson County tracking 'infectious' COVID-19 cases

Jackson County Public Health will no longer report on the number of local COVID-19 patients who have recovered, instead keeping tabs on the number of people still considered infectious.

Infectious cases “demonstrate the case population that is currently shedding the virus that might infect other people,” according to the public health website.

Patients are no longer considered infectious after being under isolation for 10 days following the onset of symptoms or a positive test and when they are symptom-free and have lacked a fever without the aid of fever-reducing medications for 72 hours.

On Monday, Jackson County had 65 infectious cases out of 152 total. One new case was reported Monday, while two previously reported cases were transferred to Jackson County because of the patients’ residency, health officials reported.

Previously, Jackson County Public Health had considered a case recovered if they were symptom and fever-free for 72 hours, consistent with the Oregon Health Authority’s definition. Recently, however, the OHA changed the definition to patients who are alive “60 days after the earliest of illness onset or the first positive test,” according to the OHA.

“Rather than calling each individual case to assess recovery, we are now relying on a ‘60-day rule,’” OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie said. “Our epidemiologists are using the time that had been spent on assessing recovery to perform case investigations and contact tracing.”

Local health officials think the change will be more useful.

“That’s probably a more important piece of information,” said Dr. Jim Shames, county medical director. “How many people do you have in your community right now who are potentially infectious persons?”

Those who have had contact with a known case are asked to quarantine for two weeks instead of 10 days.

“We want people to stay away from the public for a full incubation period of the disease in case they contract the disease,” Shames said.

Of Jackson County’s cases, 14 have been hospitalized, county data show. Four of those hospitalizations happened within the past week. Statewide, 168 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Monday, pushing the Oregon total to 10,395 cases, with 215 deaths.

The Oregon Health Authority reported that 39,914 tests were conducted June 28 through July 5, and 5.3% were positive.

“Oregon’s number of tests performed has been steadily increasing, but the number of positive cases and the test positivity rate have increased significantly since late May,” an OHA news release said. “This suggests increasing numbers of individuals with COVID-19, which is expected now that all counties are in phase one or phase two of reopening. Recent large outbreaks around the state have also contributed to these increases.”

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