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Jackson County sees jump in COVID-19 cases Thursday

Dr. Jim Shames says it’s concerning, but cautions that not a lot can be made of one day of data

Jackson County Public Health reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, the most new cases in more than a month.

The last time Jackson County reported this many cases was Feb. 25, when the county tallied 75, according to Oregon Health Authority data. The county saw 67 cases Feb. 27.

While concerning, one day does not a trend make, said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County medical director, adding that there are sometimes backlogs in the reporting system at the state level.

“We’re watching it,” Shames said. “We just don’t know what to make of one day’s data dump.”

“There is an increase in cases that we can’t track back to a source, which does sort of speak to more broad community spread,” Shames added.

The latest cases raised the county’s cumulative total to 9,297. The death toll remained at 121. Josephine County reported 30 new cases Thursday, raising the county’s cumulative total to 2,818, with 60 deaths from the illness, according to OHA data.

Jackson County health officials announced Thursday they were investigating two recent “potential” COVID-19 outbreaks. One, opened March 16, involves a spate of cases connected to Butte Creek Baptist Church in Eagle Point. So far, 17 cases have been documented, according to a public health news release.

The county also reported an investigation into Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions in Medford. That investigation began March 12, and five cases have been documented so far. The cases have been linked to company employees and “close contacts” of those employees, health officials said in a news release.

Calls to Butte Creek Baptist Church and Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions were not returned Thursday.

Statewide, Oregon reported two deaths 521 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, raising the cumulative total to 165,524 cases and 2,385 deaths.

On Thursday, 155 people in Oregon were hospitalized with COVID, 16 more than Wednesday, with 39 in intensive care, three more than Wednesday.

In Jackson and Josephine counties, 24 people were hospitalized, one fewer than Wednesday, with eight in intensive care, one more than Wednesday.

Data on Oregonians who have been fully vaccinated or received one shot of a two-dose regimen was not available on the OHA website Thursday.

“An error in county designation for some individuals was identified March 30, 2021, and the Oregon Immunization Program ALERT IIS team is working on a solution to correct the error,” a message on the OHA vaccination data site said Wednesday. “After review, no other data elements are impacted, only county of residence for some individuals.”

On Monday, April 5, vaccination eligibility is scheduled to expand again in Jackson County, with groups that include multi-generational households, frontline workers, and people age 16 to 44 with at least one underlying health condition becoming eligibile.

Shames called the ongoing efforts to vaccinate the public a race, especially as more contagious variants of the illness, such as B117, continue to circulate.

“This isn’t just mortality. There are symptoms that linger, even among younger people, people that have mild disease,” Shames said. “As we see more disease in younger folks, there is some disability that is going to increase and linger over time.”

OHA officials recently announced that laboratories at Oregon Health & Science University, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory are studying the viral mutations.

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