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Health officials say 48 seasonal workers at two regional Townsend Farms sites were infected with the virus before arriving in Oregon.

A large COVID-19 outbreak has occurred at a fruit cannery in Fairview.

Thursday afternoon, May 28, the Oregon Health Authority announced 48 seasonal workers employed at two Townsend Farms-owned sites in Fairview and Cornelius — between Hillsboro and Forest Grove in Washington County — had tested positive for the virus. According to health authorities, the individuals were exposed to the novel coronavirus before arriving in the Portland area on May 23 and 24 as part of a group of 350 seasonal workers.

More tests are being processed to see if others contracted COVID-19.

"People employed in agriculture are essential workers — they are also a vital part of our community," said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. "The agricultural work environment can put them at higher risk of infection from a communicable disease like COVID-19, and we need to do everything we can to reduce that risk."

About 300 people are employed at the Fairview cannery. A separate COVID-19 outbreak was reported on April 29 when permanent employees there tested positive. Health Authority officials said the two outbreaks are not related.

"This latest development is a good example why we have to continue to be very careful as we work to reopen," said Rep. Chris Gorsek, who serves District 49, where Townsend is located. "This recent outbreak should serve as a warning to business and government leadership as we adapt our policies and safety measures to ensure proper social distancing and the use of (personal protective equipment), like masks and gloves."

The state has received complaints about Townsend Farms' business practices during the pandemic, including failing to maintain 6 feet of distance between employees, as well as forcing employees who feel ill to continue working.

The Health Authority is offering COVID-19 tests to employees at Townsend Farms, including expanded testing for seasonal workers.

An inter-agency team also is working with the company to ensure proper infection control, safety and health measures to protect workers. They include:

• Providing separate housing so people exposed to COVID-19, and those who are sick, can properly quarantine themselves

• Ensuring food is brought onto the properties for workers during this period

• Emphasizing infection control through hand hygiene, physical distancing, and face coverings

• Protecting drivers who bring workers to and from worksites

• Providing education and outreach to farmworkers on how they can protect themselves from infection.


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