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Health and Medicine

Jackson County Hits Record High Number Of Covid Cases

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Ashkan Forouzani
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Last week alone there were more than 1500 new cases in Jackson County, a number that's nearly three times the past weekly record set during the fall and winter surge.

The surge can largely be attributed to the Delta variant, which is twice as contagious as the original COVID strain. The hospitals in the region are overwhelmed, mostly with unvaccinated people who need ICU beds and ventilators.

Jackson County has the highest number of unvaccinated people of any county in Oregon. Jim Shames, the Jackson County Medical Director, urges people to get vaccinated before catching the Delta variant.

“By the time it does sink in, by the time your family members, and your friends and perhaps yourself are sick, it's too late,” says Shames. “That's where the trust part comes in. We are hoping people will trust us that we are seeing a big train coming and we are asking them to get out of the way.”

Currently, the surge is so intense that normal strategies like contact tracing are not possible.

“When you’ve got 80% of your cases untraceable and you've got averaging 200 cases a day in a small local public health, then that strategy just doesn't work,” says Shames.

Due to the severity of the COVID outbreak in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown reinstated the mask mandate, effective last Friday. The National Guard is being deployed to help Oregon hospitals, who are overwhelmed with COVID patients, at the end of the week. Health officials encourage everyone to get a free COVID vaccine to help stop the spread of the Delta variant.

“Masking and social distancing and vaccinations are the key,” says Shames.