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‘We are in a bad place’

Southern Oregon shatters records for COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions

Jackson County set another record for new COVID-19 cases Tuesday — one day after Southern Oregon hospitals surpassed a January hospitalization record by close to 19%.

The county recorded 253 new cases and two more deaths Tuesday — including a man in his 40s — bringing the local total to 13,090 cases and pushing the death toll to 159.

Tuesday’s total surpassed the previous record of 188 new cases set Friday, according to Jackson County Public Health.

Oregon reported 1,575 new cases and nine more deaths Tuesday.

The local deaths reported Tuesday included a 43-year-old man who tested positive July 18 and died Friday at Rogue Regional Medical Center, and a 96-year-old man who tested positive July 26 and died Saturday at Ashland Community Hospital.

Josephine County reported two deaths Tuesday, an 82-year-old woman who tested positive July 26 and died Monday at Ashland Community Hospital, and a 96-year-old woman who tested positive July 26 and died Aug. 2 at Three Rivers Medical Center. Neither woman had been vaccinated, Josephine County reported

Douglas County reported four deaths Tuesday.

State health officials said that 92% of the 7,241 COVID-19 cases recorded in June and 94% of the 63 people who died in June were not vaccinated.

Southern Oregon’s hospital region No. 5 — composed of hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties — reported 83 COVID-19-positive patients Monday and Tuesday, the most since the pandemic began. The previous record of 69 patients was set Jan. 2.

The region reported 74 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Saturday, OHA records show. Local hospitalizations reached 81 Sunday and climbed to 83 Monday and Tuesday, including 26 people in intensive care.

OHA said Tuesday that all but five of the region’s 57 ICU beds were occupied.

The county’s public health and health care systems were “nearing capacity, at capacity or have surpassed it,” Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames said in a news release.

“We are in a bad place for our public health and health care infrastructure, and for the health of our community,” Shames said.

Jackson County Public Health warns that it is not staffed with enough case investigators for the surge in cases.

Many of the staff originally hired parted with the county after the earlier drop in cases reduced their hours, Jackson County Public Health Division Manager Jackson Baures said in the release.

“The reality is, because of the number of new cases and how rapid the increase in cases has been, we do not have the staff needed to ... investigate every positive case or notify close contacts,” Baures stated. “Even when we were staffed to respond to the previous surge, we would still be beyond our capacity with the number of cases we have had this past week.”

Because of the backlog, health officials advise anyone who tests positive to quarantine for 14 days and notify all the people they have been near.

An infected person is safe to be around others after they have had no fever, without taking medicine, for 24 hours, symptoms have improved, and at least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms.

People who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine unless they have symptoms, health officials say. The Centers for Disease Control, however, recommends that fully vaccinated people get tested three to five days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, and that they wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until their test result is negative.

“It is more important than ever for people to get vaccinated and wear masks,” Shames stated in the release. “We must protect our community, protect our public health and health care infrastructure and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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