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Data shows Jackson County will stay at ’high’ COVID-19 risk level

Jackson County did see a rise in new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, but it wasn’t enough to meet the Oregon Health Authority’s definition of an “extreme” risk level for the disease.

From March 21 to April 3, there were 418 new cases of the illness, or a case rate of 188.9 per 100,000 Jackson County residents, public health officials reported. That’s an uptick from the 373 cases seen from March 7-20.

A rate at or above 200 per 100,000 would have pushed the county into a two-week cautionary period, intended to give counties a chance to get cases back down before further measures are taken. If that case rate of 200 or more per 100,000 people is maintained for two more weeks, its risk level officially reverts to “extreme.” Under the designation, indoor dining at restaurants would not be allowed. There would also be additional restrictions on indoor and outdoor entertainment establishments, places of worship, and gyms, state metrics show. Full details can be viewed online at https://coronavirus.oregon.gov/Pages/guidance.aspx.

The recent rise in cases was due, in part, to the 73 new cases public health officials reported Thursday, April 1, the highest number of new daily cases since late February. Public health officials aren’t sure what caused the sudden leap but said not much can be made of one day of data.

“There’s a whole process in terms of when the data gets collated by the state and analyzed and released,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Public Health medical director. “So you really have to look at the trends. It’s worrisome when you see a day like that, but fortunately, our numbers have come back down.”

Right now, Shames said Jackson County continues to plateau when it comes to new daily cases. He emphasized the importance of continuing to get people vaccinated, especially as mutations of the virus continue to circulate.

“The underlying concern that the whole country has is that we do have rising variant (cases),” Shames said. “We are in a race.”

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanded again in Oregon Monday. Under state guidelines, the following groups are now eligible:

  • Multigenerational households
  • Frontline workers, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, and age-eligible family members in the same household
  • People age 16 to 44 with at least one underlying health condition

On May 1, all Oregonians 16 and older will be eligible. Additional details on Oregon’s vaccine schedule can be viewed online at https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/le3527A.pdf.

Details on Jackson County’s current vaccine supply should be available later in the week, Shames said, noting that the Johnson & Johnson portion of an upcoming shipment may be delayed.

The Oregon Health Authority reported that 771,752 Oregonians were considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 Monday, with 497,299 others who had received one shot of a two-dose regimen. County vaccination data was not available.

OHA officials also reported 248 new cases, with 19 in Jackson County and 11 in Josephine County. The new cases raised Oregon’s cumulative total number of cases to 167,128. Jackson County’s total raised to 9,400, Josephine County’s to 2,864.

Jackson County Public Health also reported two new deaths from COVID-19, raising the local death toll to 123. They include a 98-year-old man who tested positive Feb. 14 and died at his home March 15 and a 90-year-old man who tested positive March 26 and died April 3 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center, according to a news release. Josephine County’s death toll remained at 60.

OHA officials reported 177 COVID-19 statewide Monday, 27 more than Sunday, with 42 more patients in intensive care unit beds, one fewer than Sunday. There were 18 patients hospitalized with the illness in Jackson and Josephine counties, one fewer than Sunday, with four in intensive care unit beds, four fewer than Sunday, OHA data showed.

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