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Yamhill County health officials point to out of state travel, community spread

PMG FILE PHOTO - Health officials reported Wednesday that 39 members of the Newberg High School summer baseball team and others associated with the team tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

After an initial outbreak of just seven players and head coach Trey Watt, a COVID-19 spread related to the Newberg summer baseball team has now expanded to 39 individuals, some of whom are not associated with the club.

A press release from Yamhill County Public Health announced Thursday that the county continues to investigate the outbreak, which now has 39 confirmed cases including 35 in Yamhill County and four in neighboring counties.Manfrin

"We believe there are multiple factors that lead to this outbreak," Lindsey Manfrin, Yamhill County Health and Human Services director, said in a press release. "It is suspected that the initial case was contracted when some of the players traveled out of state for a game. This spread further when the team traveled together on a team bus. After this point, several players attended multiple social gatherings prior to knowing they were exposed, which spread COVID-19 beyond the individuals on the baseball team."

Out of state travel had been rumored in the aftermath of the initial outbreak, but was not confirmed by team officials. A person close to the team contacted this newspaper earlier this month and said a number of players traveled to Idaho for a tournament with a different club baseball team prior to the outbreak and returned a few days later. Whether those players or their families brought COVID-19 back to Oregon with them from that specific trip has not been confirmed by public health or team officials, who are now focused on containing the outbreak and addressing the health and safety of those infected.

The outbreak raises questions about the safety of high school sports during the pandemic, but coaches and school officials say Newberg baseball did everything in its power to protect itself from the virus. At practice, players wore protective neck gaiters, social distanced, worked out in smaller groups and sanitized every baseball after use. Players and coaches had their temperatures checked every day and if someone felt sick, they were told to stay home.

It all began on July 3 when one player went to the hospital with a high fever and tested positive for COVID-19. The remainder of the team got tested and six additional players along with Watt tested positive as well. That number has now ballooned and extends beyond those closely associated with the baseball team.

"Our families and our kids were responsible and followed the guidelines to the best of their abilities," Watt said after the initial outbreak. "This is one of those things that you could do everything right and follow all the guidelines and still end up in this kind of situation. We're learning how we can do things better, and I'm sorry that our kids and families have to go through this.

"We can't point to one thing and say that's where the outbreak started. It could be a guy going to a grocery store, going out to eat or going to a friend's house. It could be me going to the grocery store and then giving it to my players later that day because I'm asymptomatic and spreading it. We don't know."

Newberg's summer baseball season has been put on pause since the outbreak started and is unlikely to resume. The team hasn't gathered since the first positive test and team members have been quarantining since first getting tested. It is not apparent at this time how many of the 39 cases are symptomatic, but seven of the eight initial cases were asymptomatic when first reported.

"Yamhill County Public Health has worked closely with those individuals to complete contact tracing and provide information and resources to decrease the continued spread associated with this outbreak," Manfrin said. "It is believed that it has most likely been contained at this point. However, we do anticipate household members of cases related to this outbreak may continue to test positive."

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Officials with Yamhill County Public Health have not yet responded to a request for additional comment. Watt, who self-quarantined for two weeks at his home, declined to comment further on the matter.


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