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Home graduation parties come with risks

Jackson County Public Health reported no new COVID-19 cases on Friday, but is offering advice for people hosting or attending home parties to celebrate new graduates.

With traditional graduation ceremonies canceled, scaled back or postponed, some families want to invite friends and relatives over to honor high school or college graduates.

Jackson County Public Health said it’s best not to bring together large groups, people from different households or people from other parts of the state or country.

But if people do get together, public health officials are offering advice about how to minimize the risk.

“The rules haven’t changed — and they’re there for our safety,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County’s public health officer.

Practice at least 6 feet of social distancing, hold the party outdoors if possible, wear face coverings and wash hands frequently, he advised.

Shames said adults should set an example by wearing face coverings themselves. Communicate to those who will be attending the party that they should wear a face covering, too.

“Set some basic, common-sense ground rules,” he said.

Without precautions, Shames said graduation parties could become the exact kind of gathering where the virus spreads and infects new people. While young people tend to be less severely impacted if they do get COVID-19, they could go home from the party and spread it to vulnerable relatives, including senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health conditions.

Gov. Kate Brown still is asking Oregonians to avoid nonessential travel.

Shames said people shouldn’t travel to a graduation party or invite guests who live far away.

“Travel is a problem. And that’s really how the virus ends up in our communities,” he said.

Instead, communicate your congratulatory message to a new graduate another way, such as through a video or phone chat, Shames suggested.

People with any COVID-19-like symptoms should not attend graduation parties or other social gatherings. Stay home if you are experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell, or if you are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

Those over age 60 or with health conditions should stay home and join the celebration via technology like Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, public health officials said.

With no vaccine or treatment yet and the virus still circulating, Shames urged people to be flexible. Graduations, weddings and other festivities to celebrate major milestones will look different for a while.

“It’s just what we need to be doing to keep ourselves safe,” he said.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Jackson County remains at 65 with no deaths.

Like Jackson County, Josephine County reported no new cases Friday. The total number of confirmed cases in Josephine County is 23 with one death.

Statewide, Oregon reported 48 new cases Friday and no new deaths, bringing the total to 4,029 positive cases and 151 total deaths.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneA North Medford High School graduate tries on his graduation cap at his Medford home in this file photo.