PORTLAND, Ore. — There are 60 active COVID-19 workplace outbreaks in Oregon as of this week, and eight COVID-19 deaths have been associated with workplace outbreaks in the state. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) does not report employee deaths by workplace.
The list was published in the OHA's weekly report, which details the state’s response to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The data is current as of 11 p.m. on Sunday, July 12.
The Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem and Pacific Seafood in Newport still have the most cases among active outbreaks, with 184 and 181, respectively.
At least half of the active outbreaks this week remain at facilities that process or serve food, including the 181 cases at Pacific Seafood and 142 cases at Lamb Weston potato processing facility in Hermiston (up from 115 cases last week). Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie has had 61 cases.
Spokespersons for Lamb Weston and Pacific Seafood said Thursday they're doing a lot to keep workers safe, following CDC guidelines on social distancing, masks and screening.
A rep for Pacific Seafood also contended the state's report that makes the situation seem worse than it is, pointing out the New Port plant's last case was documented on June 30.
The vast majority of those sickened, that spokesman said, have recovered.
Workplace outbreak cases in Multnomah County rose from 85 last week, to 142 cases this week.
In addition to the ongoing Oregon State Penitentiary outbreak, OHA lists smaller outbreaks at four other correctional facilities in this week’s report. Most notably, the OHA reported 117 cases at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Eastern Oregon's Malheur County, up from just six cases reported the week before. Updated numbers released by the Oregon Department of Corrections on Wednesday show at least 142 cases linked to the outbreak.
A rep for the DOC said Thursday that no one was available for an interview.
“The presence of correctional facilities and food packing and agricultural worksites on this list highlights the challenges of controlling COVID-19 in settings where people must work or live in proximity,” the OHA report reads. “People of color are overrepresented in agricultural and correctional settings, contributing to the higher rates of COVID-19 observed in these groups.”
Advocates say the list is proof politicians and business owners need to do more to protect essential workers.
"The same worker's everyone likes to call heroes, [who] have been keeping our communities and our economy afloat ... They should be treated like heroes," said Graham Trainor.
Trainor is the president of Oregon AFL-CIO, the statewide federation of unions that represents close to 300,000 Oregon workers.
"This global pandemic has just put a spotlight on the gaps in, the cracks, in our safety net and our worker protection laws and in the way that our economy is structured to benefit some and leave many behind," he said in an interview Thursday.
He added union leaders are pushing the public to put pressure on lawmakers, to up safety standards for essential employees.
"At the federal level, Senator Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans have been sitting on their hands now for two months after the House passed the Heroes Act," he said. "[It's] an incredibly important relief and recovery and stimulus package that will really help state and local governments it'll make sure that there's a standard around workplace infectious disease standards."
On a state level, Trainor said leaders are currently meeting with lawmakers to establish statewide infectious disease standards, making it easier for employers and workers to enforce safety protocols.
"And at the end of the day, workers also need access to paid and protected leave," he said. "When our state passed our paid sick leave law, which was five days of required paid sick leave for most workers in the state, we never contemplated a 14 day quarantine period."
The OHA tracks outbreaks of five or more employees at workplaces where there are at least 30 workers. Health officials say an outbreak remains active if there has been a case within the past 28 days. The case count for each workplace includes everyone who is linked to the outbreak, whether they are workers or a close contact.
View the full list of workplace outbreaks in Oregon below, including where the workplaces are located and how many cases are associated with the outbreak.
The following 37 workplaces had COVID-19 workplace outbreaks, but they’re no longer considered active because there hasn’t been a case within the past 28 days. Duckwall Fruit in Hood River, which had 69 COVID-19 cases, joined the list of resolved outbreaks this week.
There are also two childcare facilities reporting COVID-19 outbreaks. Lake Grove KinderCare has 29 cases and Oregon Child Development in Malheur County has five cases.
Once an outbreak is identified, health officials work with the staff to isolate sick workers, test and quarantine people who may have been exposed to the virus and implement changes to reduce the risk of transmission.