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Jackson County reports 551 new COVID-19 cases

Free COVID-19 tests available by mail

Jackson County reported 551 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and another COVID-19-related death, a 67-year-old man who died at Providence Medford Medical Center.

Oregon recorded 8,538 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 15 more COVID-19-related deaths. Those who died ranged in age from 37 to 92, the Oregon Health Authority said.

Josephine County reported 183 new COVID-19 cases and the death of a 62-year-old woman. Josephine County Public Health, which reports the vaccination status of those who died, said she wasn’t vaccinated.

Of the 295 Josephine County residents who have died of COVID-19-related causes during the pandemic, 248 were unvaccinated, the county’s public health department said.

The number of people with the virus in Oregon hospitals rose to 921 Wednesday, OHA said.

The number of patients with the virus in Jackson and Josephine counties rose to 98 Wednesday, up from 53 Jan. 1.

Rogue Valley hospitals were 93% full Wednesday, according to state hospitalization data.

Hospitals in the Portland and Salem regions were 98% full Wednesday. Those regions have the most crowded hospitals among population centers.

The spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus is fueling unprecedented demand for COVID-19 tests.

More people are also testing positive, with 25.7% of tests coming back positive, according to state data released Wednesday.

Jackson County Public Health said Wednesday the county continues to experience a record number of new COVID-19 cases. The surge in cases, and people seeking testing to return to work and for travel purposes, is pushing local testing capacity to its limit.

At some local testing sites, people are waiting in line for two to three hours to get tested, local medical providers said.

“The medical community and Jackson County Public Health are doing everything it can to meet testing needs, but the realities of limited staff and the limited supply chain means we cannot fully meet all of these needs,” said Dr. Leona O’Keefe, health officer for Jackson County Public Health.

Jackson County Public Health is not recommending employers require a test to return to work, and it is not a requirement of the Oregon Health Authority’s isolation and quarantine guidance.

The medical community and Jackson County Public Health are encouraging people to make wise decisions about when to seek testing and what type of test to take, O’Keefe said.

Healthy people without serious symptoms should consider foregoing a COVID-19 test, health experts said.

PCR testing is excellent for picking up on a COVID-19 diagnosis early in the course of infection. However, these tests can remain positive in some people for two to three months, so do not use a PCR test to determine whether you are still infectious, nor to determine whether you can return to work, Jackson County Public Health said.

Antigen testing is excellent for helping determine if you are infectious. Antigen tests are most effective when someone is symptomatic. A rapid antigen test may need to be repeated if someone initially tests negative but is symptomatic, public health officials said.

Residential households in the U.S. can order a set of four free at-home antigen tests from the U.S. Postal Service. To order, visit special.usps.com/testkits. Orders will ship for free starting in late January, the U.S. Postal Service said.

Jackson County Public Health said because there is still a risk of being contagious after a five-day isolation period, people who had COVID-19 should wear a well-fitting mask for five additional days. KN95 or N95 masks better protect the wearer and prevent droplets from spreading to others. Any mask is better than no mask, and all masks should cover the nose and mouth.

People who test positive for COVID-19 and have questions or need support can call a state hotline at 1-866-917-8881.

If you test positive, isolate yourself from others, let close contacts know they were exposed and contact your medical provider about whether you need treatment, Jackson County Public Health advised.

Due to the surge in cases, county public health departments in Oregon are no longer capable of tracing people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. They are focused on outbreaks in high-risk settings.

For information on where to get tested in Jackson County, see jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/COVID-19-News/covid-19-testing information.

For information on where to get COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster shots, see jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/Vaccine-Appointments/where-to get-vaccinated-in-jackson-county.

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