PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The Oregon Health Authority says it is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak at Townsend Farms, which operates in Multnomah and Washington counties.
OHA says the outbreak is currently affecting a total of 48 of about 350 people who arrived in the Portland metro area on May 23 and May 24 to harvest fruit from Townsend Farms sites in Fairview and Cornelius.
According to OHA, the individuals are believed to have been exposed to COVID-19 prior to coming to Oregon.
Another 13 samples are still pending at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory.
OHA said county and state officials coordinated with Townsend Farms to plan for testing for all workers shortly after their arrival.
“People employed in agriculture are essential workers. They are also a vital part of our community,” said Patrick Allen, OHA director. “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.”
An investigative team, along with OHA, 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.
OHA said the safety 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 PPE.
- 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.
According to OHA, this current outbreak is separate from an outbreak that occurred at Townsend Farms in April when permanent employees at the company’s Fairview location tested positive.
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