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Jackson County added to governor's COVID-19 watch list

Gov. Kate Brown added Jackson County to the list of eight counties she’s closely monitoring.

Owing to signs of “rapid community spread” in Southern Oregon, Brown added Jackson County to her County Watch List on Thursday, joining seven other Oregon counties “seeing the broadest spread of COVID-19,” according to a release from the governor’s office.

Jackson County logged 18 new cases Thursday, bringing the latest case count to 636, with 214 people still considered infectious, according to the latest Jackson County Health and Human Services data. Two deaths and 55 hospitalizations have been linked to the coronavirus in Jackson County.

Placement on the governor’s Watch List helps Oregon Health Authority prioritize resources to the parts of the state where the virus is spreading quickly. Metrics showing signs the virus is spreading quickly in a county include at least five “sporadic” cases unable to be traced to a source during the past two weeks, according to the governor’s office.

Jackson County joins Baker, Hood River, Jefferson, Malheur, Morrow, Multnomah and Umatilla counties already on the list.

The governor removed Marion and Wasco counties Thursday based on numbers showing the counties have reduced community spread.

Counties stay on the watch list for at least three weeks while state health officials help the county boost its monitoring and communication and contact tracing until the numbers drop below five sporadic cases or 50 sporadic cases per 100,000 people.

Counties that don’t show improvement could be sent back to phase one or stay home orders. For instance, on July 31 Brown ordered Umatilla County to revert to baseline stay-at-home and Morrow County down to phase one in an effort to mitigate the virus’ spread in those counties.

Morrow County is still at phase one, and Umatilla is at phase one effective Friday.

Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority reported 301 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, including the 18 new cases in Jackson County.

OHA also reported four more deaths Thursday, pushing the state totals to 24,165 cases and 412 deaths.

None of Jackson County’s 18 new cases were linked to an outbreak at Amy’s Kitchen in White City, according to Tanya Phillips, Jackson County health promotion program manager.

On Thursday, Greenleaf Restaurant in Ashland voluntarily announced that two of its staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 and that the restaurant was working with Jackson County Health and Human Services. Neither of the employees had close contact with customers, the restaurant said, which health officials define as 15 minutes or more within six feet of proximity.

“We are working closely with the public health manager at Jackson County,” the restaurant stated on its official Facebook page. “At this time and as advised by the county we feel no risk occurred with customers that dined with us.”

The restaurant’s announcement was not required. Public health officials are only required to report workplace outbreaks if they involve five or more cases at businesses with at least 30 employees, Jackson County Public Health has stated in earlier news reports.

Over the past week, the county’s 97501 ZIP Code saw the most new cases. From Aug. 12-19, residents of the ZIP code, which includes west Medford, added 35 cases, raising the total to 191 cases, county public health data show.

East Medford, or 97504, increased by 26 cases during that same time period to 111. White City, or 97503, added 19 cases, increasing to 83. Central Point added six new cases, while Talent added five, Ashland added two and Jacksonville added one.

Data for individual ZIP Codes can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/31dYEsb.