The Oregon Health Authority this afternoon filled in details of the COVID-19 outbreak at Townsend Farms that WW first reported this morning.
Townsend Farms, a sixth-generation fruit growing and processing company, relies on hundreds of seasonal workers.
OHA says many of those workers arrived in Multnomah County last week already suffering from COVID-19.
“The outbreak currently affects a total of 48 of about 350 people who arrived in the Portland metro area May 23 and 24 to harvest fruit from Townsend-owned sites in Fairview and Cornelius,” OHA said in a statement. “The individuals 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.”
OHA also confirmed another piece of WW‘s earlier story—that Townsend Farms had an earlier outbreak of COVID-19.
“This [new] COVID-19 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,” OHA said. “These cases were reported to OHA, which in turn reported them to the public as part of its daily case reporting.”
OHA director Pat Allen says his agency preemptively decided to test agricultural workers coming to Oregon for the beginning of the berry harvest.
“People employed in agriculture are essential workers. They are also a vital part of our community,” Allen said. “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.”