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Three more COVID-19 cases in Jackson County

Three more Jackson County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county total to seven, Jackson County Public Health officials reported Friday.

Two of the new patients are between 70 and 79 years old, and one is between 30 and 39, officials said.

All three were community-acquired cases, public health officials said.

“Community acquired” doesn’t necessarily mean the people were infected in Jackson County, according to county Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames. That term indicates it did not come from overseas.

“It also means that we have no knowledge of contact with a confirmed case,” Shames said. “Therefore, the disease has spread unknowingly throughout the community to infect the current case.”

Public Health is working to identify and quarantine anyone who may have had contact with the infected people. Josephine County also reported one new case Friday, bringing its total to five.

On Friday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 414 people have tested positive statewide following 8,924 tests. As of Friday, there were 12 deaths in Oregon, though none have been in Jackson or Josephine counties.

Of seven cases in Jackson County, three affected people between 50 and 59 years old, three are between 70 and 79, and one is between 30 and 39. Four patients are male, and three are female, public health officials said. Two of the people acquired the infection through travel, while the other five acquired it through community spread. Information on whether the individuals had been hospitalized or were recovering at home was not available. It wasn’t known whether any of the cases are connected.

“I’m getting quite concerned about what I see happening,” Shames said. “It isn’t just the numbers. The numbers are very artificial because we had limited testing for so long. We still have limited testing. So some of what we’re seeing is a testing artifact. As we gear up testing, they’re getting more cases. But what worries me is that the numbers are increasing very rapidly all over the state and here as well.”

“What you’re seeing now, you’re looking back in time,” Shames added. “We’re looking back one, two, three weeks. That’s what we’re seeing now. What that means is that we’re in the midst of an outbreak that is three weeks more advanced than what the testing is telling us.”

Shames said Jackson County is awaiting the results of hundreds of tests for the virus. Test results can take anywhere from 1 to 10 days, depending on where the test is sent. Going forward, he said making tests available to those who need it should be a focus.

“We need to test people who are sick enough that they have to be hospitalized. We need to make sure we can test health care workers and emergency responders and others who we want to keep on the job, and not just quarantine away for a week because we’re waiting for the test results,” Shames said. “And people that are high risk who have symptoms. The people I left out are people with mild symptoms and those who just want to be tested. We’re really not at a place yet to do that. Now, you may find somebody who will do the test for you, but from a community benefit standard, you could be taking the place in the queue of somebody who we really need to know the results for.”

Public health officials urged residents to stay at home and observe social distancing to slow the virus spread. Frequent hand washing, disinfection of commonly touched surfaces and covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing can help.

“I think guidance will continue to evolve,” Shames said. “I suspect it will continue to get more stringent, but it still falls upon individuals to act on that, to think that those rules apply to them.”

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