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Family gatherings fuel virus growth here

Now that COVID-19 has passed 500 cases in Jackson County, have there been any studies as to where these people are catching the virus locally? By being maskless, in church while singing, at Costco, being with friends and family or being isolated and still catching the virus?

— Larry S., Jacksonville

Good question, Larry, and unfortunately in the time we’ve taken to research this response, Jackson County’s caseload has jumped from 559 cases (the count at the time your question was submitted) to over 800.

According to Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames, health officials have traced many of the recently reported COVID-19 cases to social gatherings,

The county has seen family get-togethers, said Shames, where people are inviting loved ones to their homes without taking the appropriate precautions.

If you’re inviting friends and family over, you could potentially be welcoming the virus into your home, which is why it’s important, even in your own house when necessary, to exercise best safety practices like wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance from others.

Shames acknowledged it’s not easy for everyone to create safe, socially distant environments in their homes, but he said it’s possible to maintain the social bonds we all treasure in the COVID-19 world without putting people at risk.

With COVID-19 cases rising in Jackson County, we should remember to exercise those safety practices when we’re out and about in the community too.

Jackson County has had trouble tracing the source of many local cases, which landed us a spot on Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 Watch List. According to Tonya Phillips, Jackson County health promotion program manager, from Aug. 2 to Aug. 16, the county reported 118 sporadic cases — cases that couldn’t be traced to a known sources.

Shames said the county’s contact tracing effort is improving, with more tracers now on hand.

Jackson County has less than two weeks left on the Watch List, and if we don’t show enough improvement by then, the governor could send the county back to phase one reopening or issue stay-at-home orders.

We’re less than a week away from Labor Day. That’s a great time to invite friends, family and, if we’re not too careful, COVID-19 into our homes to celebrate.

Send questions to Since You Asked, Mail Tribune newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.