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OHA says it will release info on workplace locations with coronavirus outbreaks

(Update: Adding video, info)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ)-- The Oregon Health Authority announced Thursday it will now release information regarding the location of workplace environments that have coronavirus outbreaks.

Health authorities told NewsChannel 21 that due to another recent outbreak at Townsend Farms, fruit processing plants in Fairview and Cornelius that reported over 50 infections, there needs to be more transparency throughout Oregon regarding the virus.

Health officials did not initially disclose information to the public regarding the first outbreak, which happened in April.

Robb Cowie, communications director for OHA said, "We've seen different counties handling the reports of outbreaks in different ways. The director of the Oregon Health Authority Patrick Allen decided it would be appropriate at this time for the health authority to take responsibility for reporting workplace outbreaks."

The only exception to the new policy would be if the disclosure would identify an individual or a reporting source.

Cowie said the decision will help provide more transparency and consistency for employees and customers. He said OHA will be releasing information next week that shows where there have been workplace outbreaks of the coronavirus in Oregon in the past and will do so in future cases.

"As we move forward into reopening, we want to keep a close eye on outbreaks," Cowie said. "We want to make sure the public is aware of, if we see a spike in cases, where are those new infections coming from?"

Businesses are recommended to continue social distancing and wearing masks. Cowie says Townsend Farms is taking steps to isolate infected workers and providing onsite food, in addition to many other steps.

OHA announced it will publish information about all workplace outbreaks involving five or more cases through news releases and other regular COVID-19 communications channels and publications, including its COVID-19 website.

Indeed, in Friday's daily update, OHA said an outbreak of six COVID-19 cases has been connected to Duckwall Fruit in Hood River County. The investigation started Friday. State and county public health officials are working with the business to address the outbreak and protect the health of workers, they said.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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