Amid COVID surge, JaCo/JoCo leaders say they never discussed mask mandates

MEDFORD, Ore. – Until Governor Kate Brown’s announcement Tuesday afternoon, local counties had been making the decisions regarding health measures in place. Only Multnomah County is requiring masks and that announcement came just Monday.

A couple of county commissioners don’t want to tell you whether or not you should wear a mask. They want you to make that decision for yourself. But as hospitals plead for the public to mask up and get vaccinated, Jackson County continues to be one of the leaders in new COVID-19 cases.

“This is the worst it’s ever been for us,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Medical Director of Jackson Co. Public Health.

With Jackson County among the leaders in the state again Tuesday with new COVID-19 cases, public health urges residents to be part of the solution.

“What is the public doing to reduce transmission? The answer to that is you need to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Shames

Health officials told NBC5 News they can only do so much, but if the public doesn’t listen COVID-19 won’t go away.

“It’s really getting a bit out of hand. We have lots of cases, lots of community spread, hospitals are completely full,” said Dr. Shames.

Now there is a mask mandate coming back not because of County Commissioners, but because of Governor Kate Brown. Despite hospitals in Jackson and Josephine County filling up with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, County Commissioners said they haven’t even discussed a potential mask mandate to protect the public. But Commissioner Rick Dyer said they are taking action.

“What we’ve been concentrating on is trying to act as a liaison between the state and our local hospitals to get them the necessary resources,” said Dyer.

Josephine County Public Health didn’t return our calls. County Commissioner Dan DeYoung said he had COVID-19. He urges residents to talk with their medical providers about the virus.

“If you don’t feel well stay at home,” said DeYoung, “this is getting serious, I think we can see that on top of everything else we’re getting more positive testing”.

Commissioner DeYoung said though the board has no plans to mandate masks it is concerned with the rise in hospitalizations locally.

Commissioner Dyer said the county is working to get some people discharged from the hospital into long-term care facilities. There is a lack of room at local facilities and the patients aren’t well enough to go home yet.

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