COVID-19 outbreak linked to seasonal workers in Multnomah, Washington counties
The state of Oregon reported three more deaths and 49 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The state's death toll now stands at 151.
Among the newly confirmed cases are seasonal workers at Townsend Farms operations in Multnomah and Washington counties.
Public health investigators with Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah and Washington counties say the outbreak currently affects a total of 48 of about 350 people who arrived in the Portland metro area on May 23 and 24 to harvest fruit from Townsend-owned sites in Fairview and Cornelius.
The workers are believed to have been exposed to the virus prior to coming to Oregon.
An additional 13 samples are still pending at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory.
"People employed in agriculture are essential workers," 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. State and local public health officials are committed to working with the agriculture industry to reduce the risk of infection for workers."
To date, 4,086 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus have been confirmed throughout Oregon since the outbreak began.
The 49 new confirmed cases statewide include 12 cases in Washington County; 11 in Marion County; 10 in Multnomah County; five in Malheur County; four in Clackamas County; two each in Umatilla Yamhill counties; and one each in Deschutes, Jefferson and Wasco counties.
Seven of those new total cases are related to the Townsend Farms outbreak.
Farm workers outbreak
An investigative team from the Oregon Health Authority, the counties and the Oregon Department of Agriculture are working with Townsend Farms to ensure proper infection control, safety and health measures are in place to protect workers. These measures include:
• Providing separate housing so people exposed to COVID-19, and those who are sick, can quarantine and isolate themselves while they are ill. The company reports that employees are sheltering in place and not going out in public.
• Ensuring food is brought onto the properties for the workers during this period.
• Emphasizing infection control through hand hygiene, physical distancing, face coverings and use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as masks.
• Protecting drivers who bring workers to and from worksites with PPE.
• Ensuring proper housing so symptomatic workers can be separated from worksites.
• Providing education and outreach, through the counties and their community partners, directly to farmworkers to inform them about how to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection.
The new outbreak affecting workers in Fairview and Cornelius is separate from an outbreak at the same company that began April 29 when permanent employees at the company's Fairview location tested positive for the virus.
Most recent fatalities
The fatalities announced statewide on Thursday include 73-year-old woman in Clackamas County who tested positive on May 8 and died on May 16 at her residence; a 73-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on May 6 and died on May 26 at Providence Portland Medical Center; and a 72-year-old man in Polk County who tested positive on May 1. The people who died in Multnomah and Clackamas counties had underlying medical conditions; the status of the Polk County case is pending.
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