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Health officials urge caution over Labor Day weekend

Seven more COVID deaths reported in Southern Oregon Friday

With hospital access limited due to overwhelming numbers of COVID-19 patients, public health officials are asking people to avoid risky behavior this Labor Day weekend.

Getting treated for medical emergencies such as a broken leg or food poisoning may be more difficult in hospitals in the Rogue Valley and other parts of the state, according to a news release from Jackson County Public Health issued Friday.

“So even if you’re taking precautions to avoid COVID-19 transmission, avoiding other risky behavior is also an important way to support our hospital system in this time of crisis,” the release states.

On Friday morning, 218 people were hospitalized in Jackson and Josephine counties, five fewer than the record of 223 set earlier in the week, and 65 people were in intensive care.

Hospitals in other parts of the state are at their limit also after eight weeks of increases in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Caseloads this week were 13 times higher than the week of July 4, according to Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger of the Oregon Health Authority.

“Our hospitals have reached the saturation point,” Sidelinger stated in a video. “Our health systems are not able to provide the care to everyone arriving at their doors. ... That means fewer beds for anyone experiencing a medical incident.”

Because the delta variant is spreading rapidly, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, local health officials recommend reconsidering any large outdoor gatherings or indoor activities that risk spreading COVID-19.

Among their suggestions are staying close to home, avoiding crowds, wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces and outdoors when it’s not possible to stay six feet apart.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people not travel until they’re fully vaccinated. People not fully vaccinated who need to travel should take precautions that include wearing masks on planes and other forms of public transportation, and avoiding crowds during the trip. After travel, unvaccinated people should get tested in about three to five days and self-quarantine for seven days after the trip.

Vaccinated people should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after travel, and self-isolate and get tested if symptoms develop, according to the CDC.

Josephine County reported six more deaths Friday, and Jackson County reported one.

The latest deaths in Josephine County included a 33-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 19 and died Aug. 23, a 57-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 8 and died Wednesday at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass, a 69-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 18 and died Wednesday at Three Rivers, a 70-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 16 and died Wednesday at Three Rivers, a 76-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 12 and died Aug. 20 at his home and a 76-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 16 and died Aug. 20 at his home.

Five of the six Josephine County residents who died were not vaccinated, according to Josephine County Public Health.

Of the 140 COVID-19 deaths in Josephine County, 14 were vaccinated and 126 were not.

Jackson County does not release information about vaccination status when announcing COVID-19 deaths.

Jackson County reported Friday the death of an 85-year-old woman who tested positive Aug. 18 and died Monday at her residence, pushing Jackson County’s death toll to 215.

Jackson County reported 195 new cases Friday, pushing the total to 18,970 cases since the start of the pandemic.

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