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Your View: County COVID policy needs balance

On Dec. 19, 85 people were hospitalized in Jackson and Josephine counties with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. In the month of February, that number did not rise above 31, with a low of 16 on Feb. 11.

Jackson County recorded 706 COVID cases for the week of Dec. 6. For the week of Feb. 7, that number was 170 cases. Jackson County has successfully reduced the impacts of the pandemic and substantially mitigated future risks. It is time for state policy to accurately reflect that reality.

Good public policy requires careful consideration to achieve a balance that ensures the burdens created by a policy do not outweigh the intended derived benefits. Diligent monitoring of changing circumstances affecting the variables of this analysis is required to maintain this vital balance.

The stated purpose of the government-imposed restrictions on businesses, schools, activities and gathering sizes was to limit the spread of COVID-19 and prevent overwhelming our medical resources and hospital capacities. The most severe outcomes resulting in serious illness, hospitalizations and death have disproportionately occurred in infections of older and compromised individuals, especially those residing in congregate care facilities.

The governor introduced the Sector Risk Level Guidance Chart in November, when no vaccinations had yet been administered in Oregon. The restrictions imposed by this guidance chart have resulted in substantial hardship to businesses, individuals and local economies. Since that time, the state and Jackson County have undertaken an aggressive vaccination campaign that has been successful in inoculating a large percentage of those most vulnerable populations, thus substantially mitigating the risks of severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 infections.

Simply put, the previous extreme risk threshold of 200 cases per 1,000 population now includes far fewer of these vulnerable individuals, resulting in far fewer problematic outcomes. With this reduction in the risks, good policy requires a corresponding and commensurate reduction of the burdens created by the restrictions imposed.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Chambers of Medford/Jackson County and Eagle Point/Upper Rogue have written a joint letter to Gov. Brown (below) requesting an immediate and vigorous review of these policies to achieve the balance equitable policy-making demands. Every day these policies are not adjusted to reflect this necessary balance, businesses and individuals are negatively affected with very little real corresponding benefit to public health. As we continue to achieve greater vaccination numbers and immunity percentages, these restrictions need to continue to be monitored and swiftly reduced accordingly.

The letter can be found here: (https://jacksoncountyor.org/DesktopModules/Bring2mind/DMX/API/Entries/Download?EntryId=51017&Command=Core_Download&language=en-US&PortalId=0&TabId=2200)

Rick Dyer is a Jackson County commissioner.