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Small gatherings have led to large spread of COVID-19, Jefferson County health department says.

HOLLY M. GILL/MADRAS PIONEER - Jefferson County Public HealthWith the ongoing local COVID-19 response, Jefferson County Public Health continues to work hard to provide accurate and timely information that our community can use to help slow the spread of this virus. As an organization, Jefferson County Public Health remains in full support of keeping our local businesses open and working hard to meet the metrics required to open our schools. However, Public Health staff stress the need for local residents' help and support to achieve these goals.

Today, Jefferson County Public Health began an educational campaign designed to highlight the primary method of local spread of COVID-19; social gatherings. Ongoing data and contact tracing indicate that limiting social gatherings can help Jefferson County reach these metrics required by the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to reopen all our local schools. Understanding that it's not easy to decline invitations from friends and family to get-togethers that were a common occurrence, the new educational campaign focuses on how easily the virus can spread among family members at social gatherings. It is understandably hard for many of us to understand how being with friends and loved ones could be what puts you and others at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.

The Oregon Health Authority recently provided two examples that we have seen here in Oregon that have increased the spread of COVID-19 in our communities that started from seemingly harmless gatherings.

In the first example, 10 people got together for a family party, and two people at the party were likely infectious at the time, though they did not have symptoms. In total, those two cases have led to 20 reported cases spread across 10 households. At least two of the people work with vulnerable populations. One person lived in a multi-generational house with family members with high-risk conditions. So even though the people who went to the party weren't at higher risk for complications, many of the people who got sick potentially exposed people who are more vulnerable.

In the second example, 20 people rented a beach house for a celebration and were together for three days. No one had symptoms during the trip, but four were potentially infectious at the time. Twelve people from the trip got sick, all adults of various ages. These cases then had links to five workplace outbreaks, with a total of more than 300 cases so far.

These two examples show that even with a small group of people, having had multiple exposures can lead to large number of cases. Jefferson County Public Health asks everyone in the community to help our county reach the metrics laid out by the state and decrease the spread of COVID in our community.

Limit your social gatherings outside your household, noting that Gov. Brown has made social gatherings with more than 10 people off-limits.

Wear a face covering indoors and outside when you can't maintain 6 feet of physical distance from people outside your household.

If you have a small gathering, consider hosting it outdoors rather than indoors.

Wash your hands frequently.

As always, Jefferson County Public Health thanks our community for the tremendous effort and sacrifice many have done to get us through the pandemic so far. With a little more, we can emerge from this as a healthier community. Be sure to check out Jefferson County Public Health Facebook page for the latest educational campaigns and COVID-19 daily updates: https://www.facebook.com/JeffersonCountyOrHealthDepartment/.


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