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Jackson County reports first COVID-19 death

Jackson County reported its first COVID-19-related death Wednesday, along with 13 new cases of the disease.

“It is with very heavy hearts that we announce this fatality,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County medical director, in a Wednesday press release. “We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this individual.”

The 65-year-old man, who died July 25 at Providence Portland Medical Center, tested positive for COVID-19 June 29. He had underlying medical conditions, the county reported.

Shames said it's not unusual for the disease to take a progressive toll on a patient, sometimes resulting in a death weeks after the initial positive test. Though hesaid he didn't know what underlying conditions the man may have experienced, "obviously he was pretty sick or he wouldn't have been transferred up to Portland."

Shames addressed uncertainty about underlying conditions reported in COVID-19 deaths by noting the widespread impact of the disease on the body that health experts are discovering.

"It does have profound effects on the respiratory tract, but it's actually also a vascular disease — it affects the blood vessels," he said. "It has a much broader range of effects than other diseases we might be used to."

Because of that, he said, underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiac issues are often made worse by the effects of COVID-19, and contribute to the mortality rate.

"What we're discovering is people can present with a pulmonary embolism, or a stroke, or a heart attack," Shames said. "But it's caused by COVID-19."

The Jackson County man was Oregon's 309th person to die of COVID-19, the county said.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 304 new confirmed and presumptive cases in the state Wednesday, and seven new deaths in addition to the man from Jackson County.

The 13 local cases reported Wednesday bring Jackson County's total to 325 since the pandemic began. The county reports that 85 of those cases are still active and considered infectious.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.