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Josephine County issues warning as COVID-19 cases rise

Josephine County Public Health is urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. File photo
Public health officials say virus striking younger people

Josephine County Public Health is urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and take precautions as a seven-week drop in cases ended with a rise in cases last week.

For the one-week period ending Oct. 16, Josephine County saw 149 COVID-19 cases, up from 137 the previous week. Before last week, the number of cases in Josephine County had dropped each week from a high of 876 set the week of Aug. 15-21, health officials said.

Public health officials said the rise in cases should serve as a reminder that COVID-19 still is spreading in the community, and receiving a free vaccination is the best way for residents to protect themselves and their families.

“Vaccination is the strongest tool we have available and requires only intermittent effort. I know that masks, physical distancing and limiting social gatherings are ongoing efforts that can get tiring,” said Dr. Leona O’Keefe, deputy health officer for Josephine County Public Health. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not pay attention to how tired we are with it, so we must continue our efforts to limit its spread for the sake of protecting our community, especially when we are in a time of high transmission, such as now.”

Josephine County Public Health officials also warned that COVID-19 is striking younger people.

More than 65% of local COVID-19 patients are younger than 50, and 31% of hospitalized patients are younger than 60, they said.

The summer and fall spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 triggered the highest surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths of the pandemic in the Rogue Valley. Vaccines are effective against the delta variant.

“COVID-19 was a top-10 cause of death in the United States for all age groups in August and September of this year, and it was the number one cause of death in those age 35-54 for the same time period. That same age group represents the highest rate of infection in Josephine County,” O’Keefe said.

As of Monday, 57.9% of Josephine County residents 18 and older were vaccinated. Josephine County ranks 24th out of Oregon’s 36 counties on the percent of adults who are vaccinated, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

COVID-19 vaccination is available for people 12 and older. Statewide, 76.5% of people 18 and older are vaccinated, OHA said.

Oregonians age 70-79 have the highest vaccination rate at 88.9%. Kids ages 12-17 have the lowest vaccination rate at 62.1%, followed by teens age 18-19 at 62.4% and young adults age 20-29 at 69%, statewide OHA data shows.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Jackson and Josephine counties were falling from their pandemic peak in early September until Oct. 9, but have stalled out for several days at levels seen during last winter’s COVID-19 surge, according to state hospitalization data.

Visit co.josephine.or.us/COVID19 to schedule a vaccine appointment. Call the Josephine County COVID-19 Call Center at 541-916-7030 to ask questions, schedule a vaccine appointment or schedule a testing appointment.

For information on vaccination in Jackson County, see jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/Community-Resources/jackson-county-public-health-covid-19-vaccine-appointments.

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