‘Oregonian’ Editorial Board calls out JaCo Commissioners’ COVID response

MEDFORD, Ore. –  The state’s biggest newspaper, The Oregonian, is calling out Jackson County commissioners, for an alleged lack of leadership.

It says they’ve been sitting on the sidelines, as COVID cases here skyrocket, and the county leads the state in total deaths since Oregon reopened at the end of June.

In an editorial published Sunday morning, the Portland-based paper pointed to Southern Oregon’s low vaccination rates as one of the primary reasons for the uptick in cases.

“I think the article was absolutely inaccurate,” said Commissioner Rick Dyer.

To put in perspective, 76% of Multnomah residents are vaccinated against Covid-19. Jackson County, less than a third of its size, has around 57% vaccinated.

The paper notes that in early May, commissioners sent a letter to the governor asking for local control of COVID restrictions.

It said that the county’s vaccination numbers “indicate that the local hospitals and health care system are extremely unlikely to ever become overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases in the future.”

As we’ve been covering in recent weeks, Jackson and Josephine county hospitals are being pushed to the brink. We’re among the daily leaders in new COVID cases, despite a much smaller population than many counties to our north. Now, ICUs are full, some medical workers are sick themselves with COVID, and patients needing non-life-saving surgery are being turned away.

Commissioner Dyer says the county is asking for help.

“We requested field units here as well as staff, critical care, respiratory therapists, nurses as well as testing staff, logical staff to help alleviate the capacity limits were seeing,” said Commissioner Dyer.

Health officials say a majority of local people hospitalized are unvaccinated.

But as the paper points out, the commissioners have been individually quiet, choosing not to push vaccinations, or even mask-wearing, in our community. Instead, they’ve continually pushed back on state COVID restrictions.

“You know I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice, I want people to make their own informed decision,” said Commissioner Dyer.

Commissioner Dyer admits, he’s vaccinated but won’t champion the idea to residents.

Since the June 30th reopening of the state, 18 residents have already died from COVID in Jackson County.

That compares to just 4 in much larger Multnomah County.

Commissioner Colleen Roberts told us she stands by what the county has done. A call to Commissioner Dave Dotterer wasn’t returned.

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