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Seven more COVID-19 deaths reported in Jackson County

Jackson County health officials reported seven new coronavirus deaths Thursday — all involving residents of local care homes — bringing the county death toll to 19.

The county also reported 89 new cases of the virus Thursday, pushing the county total to 3,157 cases.

The seven deaths were among 20 reported in Oregon Thursday, the most in a day since the pandemic began. The state also reported 1,225 new COVID-19 cases, another one-day record.

The local deaths included four fatalities at Table Rock Memory Care in Medford and three deaths at Avamere Three Fountains in Medford.

The deaths included three men, ages 91, 89 and 86, and four women, ages 74, 77, 94 and 81. The 91-year-old man and the 74-year-old woman had underlying medical conditions. It was not yet known whether the other five had underlying health problems.

The 74-year-old woman died Nov. 17 at Providence Medford Medical Center. The other six died in their homes between Nov. 11 and Nov. 18.

According to Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County medical director, the coronavirus has a tendency to spread rapidly at skilled nursing facilities because residents there “are very dependent on others.”

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Shames said assisted-living facilities try to keep COVID-positive patients together “like a cohort” in their own unit, and keep those patients separated from residents who haven’t been exposed to the virus.

Depending on the patients’ mental condition, instructions such as wearing a mask or staying away from other residents can be hard for them to follow, according to Shames.

“Sometimes [residents] can’t always do what they’re instructed to do,” Shames said.

Shames said the virus typically gets into the care facility through a worker infected at home.

“Once it gets going, it can spread pretty quickly,” Shames said.

As of Thursday, outbreaks at eight local care facilities were linked to 303 COVID-19 cases and 11 fatalities. Those outbreaks included 117 cases and six fatalities at Avamere Three Fountains, 71 cases and one fatality at Avamere Health Services of Rogue Valley, four cases at Avamere Waterford in Medford, four cases at Hearthstone Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Medford, 11 cases at Linda Vista in Ashland, nine cases at Orchard Assisted Living in Medford, 19 cases at Rogue Valley Manor in Medford, and 68 cases and four fatalities at Table Rock Memory Care.

Of the 3,157 cases reported in Jackson County since the start of the pandemic, 871 patients are considered infectious.

Shames said that most of the recent cases stem from people contracting the virus at social gatherings and then spreading it to others within their household.

“The common thread is people share the virus in their homes,” Shames said.

Shames said that with the virus spreading so fast, locals should rethink their Thanksgiving plans and “plan on something really spectacular next year.”

“Why don’t we just assume that this Thanksgiving is going to be unique?” Shames said — not like the holidays of the past, and one that “won’t be like the Thanksgivings of the future.”

Shames said people getting together with others from outside their household is “just dangerous” right now.

As of Thursday, 55 COVID-19 patients remained in the hospital in Jackson and Josephine counties, according to Oregon Health Authority data. One week ago on Nov. 12, there were 35. The two-county region, referred to by OHA officials as Region 5, has 57 intensive care unit beds. As of Thursday, all but seven had been filled, according to state data. Of the region's 447 total non-ICU beds, 61 were available.

There have been a total of 223 hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Jackson County. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide has increased to 414.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat. Web editor Ryan Pfeil contributed to this report.