© 2023 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Record Daily COVID Rate In Jackson County Presumed Linked To Wildfire Disaster

Image of two people in plastic suits in parking area doing virus testing.
Lauren Van Sickle
Health care workers at Astante's drive-through COVID-19 testing location in March.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases on a single day in Jackson County hit a new high this week. Part of the reason is residents being displaced by recent wildfires.

On Thursday, Jackson County Public Health announced they had recorded 27 new, positive cases of COVID-19 the previous day. That’s a new record, after the previous high of 24 cases in a day, according to Medical Director Jim Shames.

After the Almeda Fire, state officials added several new questions for county case investigators about whether individuals who tested positive were displaced by the fire or if they had taken someone into their home who was displaced.

After analyzing the first 99 positive cases after the fire, Shames says, about 50% were attributed to people who had either been displaced by the fire or those who had taken evacuees into their homes.

“A lot of people weren’t being as cautious as they could have been, should have been,” Shames says. “We were expecting there to be a rise in the weeks after the fire and we may be seeing that.”

The number of new COVID-19 infections have fluctuated in Jackson County, even since the Almeda Fire. Other daily case rates over the past week topped out in the single digits.

Still, Shames says, the effects of a wildfire during a pandemic means the circumstances are different and people need to adapt. That means taking precautions like wearing masks and practicing social distancing around anyone who could have COVID, even if they’re friends or family members who are now staying at your home.

“I think those are concepts that people aren’t used to,” he says. “But under the circumstances, we need to do all we can to stay safe in places that may have previously been safe.”

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.