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Dyer praises Brown’s firm reopening date

Russell Daugherty, left, and Rusty Farace, both of Ashland, are shown earlier this month on their way to the Rogue Valley Mall in Medford. Jamie Lusch file photo / Mail Tribune

Calling the state’s 70% vaccination target an “arbitrary number,” the chair of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners praised Gov. Kate Brown’s plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the month.

Rick Dyer said Friday that Brown’s announcement marking an end date no later than June 30 — but possibly sooner if the state reaches Brown’s vaccination target — is “definitely a long time coming” and welcome news for the local businesses.

“I’m just extremely happy for them,” Dyer said of businesses such as restaurants and gyms.

He voiced gratitude that “things that make our area special” such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Jackson County Fair will be able to reopen this summer.

“It’s going to be great to get our persona back,” Dyer said.

After June 30, mask and social distancing decisions will be made at the county level. When asked about restrictions, Dyer declined to speak for the Board of Commissioners, but said those decisions would be discussed at upcoming public meetings.

Dyer said he had a few hours of advance notice of the governor’s announcement, finding out about plans to lift restrictions at about 8 a.m. Friday.

“We had that 70% number, and those numbers have been lagging,” Dyer said. “I think this is a good move to put some certainty on it.”

As of Thursday, 69.1% of the state’s vaccine eligible population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Oregon Health Authority, but Jackson County was at just 52.4%.

Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames said he’s concerned for those who haven’t been vaccinated because “the pandemic hasn’t really slowed down for them.”

With the exception of a small percentage of “breakthrough” cases — between 1% and 2% — the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases involve people who have not been vaccinated.

Jackson County Friday reported one new death — an 81-year-old man — and 16 new cases, pushing the case count to 11,597 and the death toll to 147.

Shames said health officials are still learning whether people who have been infected with COVID-19 contribute to local herd immunity, and how long that immunity lasts.

“It’s a difficult way to get protected from COVID,” Shames said.

For people who have been infected with COVID-19, Shames said that at least one dose of the vaccine appears to dramatically strengthen their immune system over immunity that may have developed naturally.

On Friday, 232 new cases were reported across the state, including three new cases in Josephine County and six in Klamath County. The Jackson County death was the state’s only fatality reported Friday.

Next week, Jackson County Health and Human Services will move its vaccination clinic from The Expo to its office in downtown Medford.

Starting June 29, the two-dose Moderna vaccine and single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available at Jackson County Public Health, 140 S. Holly St., in Medford. The Medford walk-in clinic is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.

The vaccine is free, and insurance is not required. Walk-ins are welcome, but anyone who’d like to make an appointment can call 541-774-8209.

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