Many Of Oregon's Newest Coronavirus Cases Tied To Fruit Processor Outbreak

By OPB Staff (OPB)
Portland, Ore. May 28, 2020 6:15 p.m.

UPDATE (2:57 p.m. PT) — The Oregon Health Authority Thursday reported 4,086 known coronavirus cases in the state.

That number includes both positive and presumptive cases. Presumptive cases are people who have not tested positive for the virus but have symptoms and have had close contact with a confirmed case.


OHA also reported three new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the state’s total deaths to 151.

Oregon COVID-19 Map

Jacob Fenton, The Accountability Project at the Investigative Reporting Workshop 

Townsend Farms confirmed as site for recent coronavirus outbreak

The Oregon Health Authority Thursday confirmed a coronavirus outbreak at Townsend Farms, a fruit farm and processor based in Multnomah County with other locations in Marion and Washington counties.

The outbreak, currently affecting 48 people, is at Townsend Farms locations in Fairview and Cornelius, OHA said. An additional 13 tests are still pending at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory.

Public health officials said those affected are migrant farm workers who traveled to Portland over the Memorial Day weekend and that the workers are believed to have been exposed to the virus before coming to Oregon.

“People employed in agriculture are essential workers. They are also a vital part of our community,” Patrick Allen, OHA director, said in a statement. “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.”


Clark County at nearly 550 cases

Health officials in Clark County announced Thursday that there are 548 confirmed coronavirus cases there, and 25 people have died.

The most recent available data from the Washington Department of Health show 20,406 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and 1,095 known deaths.

As of Thursday, 13 more positive coronavirus cases were linked to an outbreak at a Vancouver fruit processor Firestone Pacific Foods, according to Clark County health officials. In the outbreak, a total of 119 people are confirmed to have coronavirus, including employees and close contacts. Four of those people are not Clark County residents.

The outbreak prompted Washington to pause Clark County’s request to move to Phase 2 of reopening.

It may be the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the greater Portland metro area not linked to the health care industry.

Washington County approved for Phase 1

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Thursday announced that Washington County has been approved to begin Phase 1 of her reopening plan starting Monday.

Washington County applied for Phase 1 last week.

Multnomah County is now the only county in Oregon that has not applied for reopening. All other counties in the state have begun Phase 1.

Wyden urges federal watchdog to investigate mental health coverage

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Thursday sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting the agency investigate health insurance plans’ abilities to meet Americans’ mental health needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wyden said Thursday in a press call that stay-at-home and social distancing measures related to hindering the spread of coronavirus are exacerbating feelings of isolation for a lot of people.

“The response needed to protect Americans' physical health because of COVID-19 is exacting an unprecedented toll on Americans’ mental health and it is adding layer on layer of obstacles to already thick walls that insurance companies have built up to block Americans from getting the mental health care they need,” Wyden said.

The letter sent to the GAO is asking the watchdog agency to investigate the role of behavioral health service organizations to ensure they are meeting the legal requirements of mental health parity when contracting with insurance companies for coverage.

“Mental health benefits should be no less generous than physical health benefits,” Wyden said.