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Details Of COVID-19 Reporting Vary By County In Southern Oregon

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread in Oregon, the details of how those infections are reported to the public varies by county.

In Jackson County, of the 157 total cases since the pandemic started, 57 are listed as “Active Infectious Cases.” Similar reporting is done in Lane and Curry County. The Oregon Health Authority includes “recovered” cases. But Klamath and Douglas Counties provide less detail, focusing only on new daily cases and total cases.

According to health officials in Klamath County, they’re providing fewer details out of an abundance of caution.

“When we are saying ‘You are no longer actively infectious,’ we’re a little hesitant to use those words because this disease is still quite new and we don’t want to just definitively say they’re not infectious anymore,” says Jennifer Little, the director of Klamath County Public Health.

The variation is due in part because last week officials with the Oregon Health Authority changed how they track COVID-19 recoveries. State health officials previously contacted COVID-positive individuals to determine when they had recovered. Now the department guidance says any individual case still alive after 60 days is deemed recovered.

Little, with Klamath County Public Health, says this inaccurately inflates their current 131 cases by making them look active for two months and it could give residents the wrong impression.

“People might think ‘Oh gosh, people are staying sick for a really long time’ and ‘That’s terrifying. Why aren’t they getting better?’” she says.

Most people with coronavirus symptoms will no longer be infectious 10 days after their symptoms appeared and they are fever-free for 72 hours, though due to variations, health officials still recommend 14 days of isolation.

While counties are choosing which information to report, statewide numbers of recovered cases are available on the website of the Oregon Health Authority.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.