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Outbreak at Medford church linked to 18 COVID-19 cases

A Medford church has canceled in-persons services and is working with local health officials in the wake of an outbreak that reportedly included a pastor who was hospitalized.

Jackson County Health and Human Services said 18 COVID-19 cases are linked to Joy Church Medford, 2715 Table Rock Road, according to a Jackson County Public Health press release issued Friday.

Health officials said they are investigating possible secondary workplace infections and have “also linked the outbreak to another Oregon county.”

According to the Joy Church Medford’s Facebook page, the fellowship is linked to Joy Church Eugene, which operates out of Lane County.

The church first learned of three infections in the congregation last week, including a one couple and one unrelated person, and canceled all in-person services, according to an Oct. 7 Facebook post on the church’s page written by Pastor Steve Schmelzer.

In an Oct. 9 update, Schmelzer announced that his wife, Executive Pastor Kim Schmelzer, was hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus and having difficulty breathing.

Phone and Facebook messages to the church were not immediately returned Friday, but Steve Schmelzer posted earlier this week on the church page that Kim Schmelzer was “doing well” and released from the hospital Monday.

He also posted a Jackson County Health and Human Services letter dated Oct. 11 in which county Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames advised anyone who develops symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat to stay home except for medical care, and to contact a health care provider for medical advice and possible testing.

Jackson County health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the county’s case count to 1,448, including 196 people considered to be infectious.

The active cases included nine children age 9 or younger, 31 youths between the ages of 10 and 19, 37 people in their 20s, 35 people in their 30s, 24 people in their 40s, 34 people in their 50s, 13 people in their 60s, four people in their 70s, eight people older than 80, and one patient whose age was not immediately available.

Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority recorded 418 new cases and six more deaths Friday.

The new cases include 86 in Multnomah County, 58 in Washington County, 45 in Clackamas County, 35 in Marion County, 18 in Deschutes County, 17 each in Malheur and Umatilla counties, 14 in Yamhill County, 13 in Polk County, five in Coos, Douglas and Morrow counties, three in Columbia, Jefferson and Tillamook counties, two in Benton, Klamath and Wasco Counties, and one new case in Crook and Curry counties.

The latest deaths included a 50-year-old Jefferson County man, an 82-year-old Washington County man, an 88-year-old Curry County woman, a 65-year-old Washington County woman, a 94-year-old Hood River County woman and an 81-year-old Multnomah County man. All had underlying medical conditions, according to OHA.

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