Pushing towards reopening, counties must be wary of virus still

MEDFORD, ORE.– An uptick in cases for several counties in southern Oregon has health officials reminding people coronavirus is still here.

While counties are beginning to prepare to potentially move into Phase Two, safety measures are continuing to be stressed.

“We’re going to have to accept that we’re going to have an increase in cases,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Public Health.

While certain local businesses reopen and continue to operate in Phase One, health officials are reminding people of the risks.

“A lot of people have mistaken reopening as if suddenly the risk of the virus has gone away and it has not,” said Dr. Shames.

Southern Oregon counties are submitting applications this week to move forward to Phase Two of reopening as soon as this weekend. With the deadline on Wednesday, counties expect to hear back from the state on Friday whether more businesses can continue to reopen.

“We’re not moving forward just to move forward though businesses are asking us to do that,” said Commissioner Lily Morgan of Josephine County. “We are working in partnership with our health department who is 100 percent agreeing we need to be reopening and moving forward.”

In Josephine County, county leaders are feeling confident about moving to the next phase as the number of cases has not increased. Jackson County however has seen an uptick of new cases.

County leaders say they’re more confident in the structures set in place to identify and react. But not so much on the responsibility of the community.

“People that are going shopping, hanging out with their friends, going to parties without facial coverings,” said Dr. Shames. “Without maintaining six-foot distance, without doing it out of doors and I’m concerned that’s going to lead to more and more cases that we’re going to have to handle.”

Health officials are still shooting to flatten the curve. The last thing they want to see is a spike that could jeopardize all the hard work already accomplished.

The governor and Oregon Health Authority will be reviewing county applications later this week with announcements set for Friday. It’s expected the soonest counties could move to Phase Two would be Saturday.

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