Jackson County Prepares to Reopen

Photo by Southern Oregon University

With Oxford’s new Coronavirus Vaccine projected to be released by September the latest. There are only 49 cases in Jackson County, to which 38 have recovered, and the county has yet to record a death from this virus. How can students continue to remain safe, rational, and calm in this challenging time?

Businesses in rural areas with few or no COVID-19 cases are planning to reopen as of May 15th, Governor Brown says metropolitan areas will likely have to wait longer. Governor Brown has also split Oregon into respective regions to make transport of affected individuals easier between cities. Regions with more than five cases will not be able to reopen as of May 15th, but Governor Brown is working on her “Reopening Oregon” plan gradually.

A response report published by Jackson County Health and Human Services stated,”Jackson County has one of the lowest COVID-19 rates in Oregon.” The indication why is unclear, but it is apparent that the rural areas of Oregon are less affected by the virus.

The Oregon Health Authority did their best to explain why Jackson County has had such success in maintaining the spread of this virus.

“It is impossible to say why a particular community has more or less cases than another as there are any number of factors that can impact that. As we see in the modeling data, the Stay Home, Stay Alive efforts that included the guidelines on social distancing included in Governor Brown’s executive order have had the desired impact of flattening the curve. While Oregon has seen such success as a result of those efforts, we encourage Oregonians to continue to observe the physical distancing guidelines, stay home if they are ill, wash hands often with soap and water, don’t touch your face and wear masks when in public areas where there is likely to be other people. OHA has provided guidance and information on sanitation practices across all sectors in the state.”

When asked how OHA has dealt with the major remote shift, they replied, “The unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have challenged the traditional delivery of services, including those provided by OHA.  In fact, all government sector and private sector services have been affected in dramatic fashion.” 

In an interview with Dr. Jim Shames, Medical Director at Jackson County Health and Human Services, he was asked why Jackson County might have an upper hand in maintaining the virus’s spread. He stated that we have adhered to all the social distancing rules and are “rural-enough to inhibit the virus from spreading”, and that we have “a strong Public Health Department.”

In response to the demographics of the virus, the virus does not discriminate when it comes to age. Dr. Shames stated that “we’re definitely seeing very sick young people; reduced risk is [a more] appropriate term,” instead of “not at risk”. “You want to avoid close contact with people not in your household. The way to do that is maintain an at least, six-foot distance when you’re indoors, wear facial covering…wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face,” Dr. Shames shared.

In response to whether it is advisable for university employees to be able to work physically at their job again, Dr. Shames stated, “The virus hasn’t changed, it’s the same virus we had in January, February, March, April, and it’s the same virus that were gonna be facing for quite sometime…The only thing that is going to change is the amount of virus that might be in our community…As soon as we start opening back up, and people start congregating in groups together, we can expect more cases.”

In this time of treading the waters, Dr. Shames stresses that we must continue to practice social distancing even as we resume work. It’s “not business as usual” as Shames put it, we must remain diligent and mindful of our health and others.

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