Umatilla County workplace coronavirus outbreaks among worst in state

UMATILLA COUNTY, Ore. – Workplace coronavirus outbreaks are on the rise in Oregon, especially in Umatilla County.

The Oregon Health Authority lists outbreaks at workplaces that have 30 or more employees and 5 or more cases. Out of 79 worksite outbreaks across the state most recently listed, about 10% are in Umatilla County.

Here is a look at the current list of active workplace outbreaks in Umatilla County, per OHA:

  • Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution – 423 cases
  • Lamb Weston (Hermiston) – 190 cases
  • Two Rivers Correctional Institution – 128 cases
  • Walmart Distribution Center (Hermiston) – 70 cases
  • Walmart store (Hermiston) – 57 cases
  • Good Shepherd Hospital – 46 cases
  • Home Depot (Hermiston) – 16 cases
  • J & J Snack Foods (Weston) – 11 cases

Here is a look at recently resolved outbreaks:

  • Shearer’s Foods (Hermiston) – 72 cases
  • Smith Frozen Foods, Inc. (Weston) – 39 cases
  • Ranch & Home (Hermiston) – 9 cases

RELATED: Over 1,700 Umatilla County prison inmates quarantined as coronavirus cases rise

KAPP-KVEW spoke with Umatilla County Public Health Director Joseph Fiumara Jr. who tells us a couple of the reasons why Umatilla County’s workplace cases are so high is because their county is made up of many essential workers who can’t work from home, and pandemic fatigue is setting in.

“Some folks are just really, really tired of some of these restrictions and really tired of some of these guidelines. And I get it, we’re tired of them too, but we’re still in the middle of this,” said Fiumara Jr.

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“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. People of color are overrepresented in agricultural and correctional settings, contributing to the higher rates of COVID-19 observed in these groups. OHA publishes these data in response to public request, but with some concern that workers or staff members at these workplaces might be subject to discrimination,” the Oregon Health Authority explained in their weekly report.

The state and local health districts says it’s very important for employees who are sick to stay home. They also say employers should develop flexible leave policies to support employees who become ill.

“Employers can support their workers with policies that ensure that ill workers are not in the workplace and are not penalized for taking sick leave. Employers should ensure that workers are aware of and understand these policies. There have been 29 deaths and 7,882 cases associated with all workplace outbreaks that have been reported to date,” the Oregon Health Authority wrote in their report.

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“It is imperative that any person who is exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness stay home. UCo Health continues to discover instances where individuals are continuing to work while sick,” the Umatilla County Public Health district published in a news release.

Umatilla County residents who have been asked to quarantine and therefore may need help with rent, medication delivery or other needs can contact the Umatilla County Public Health district for information on available assistance.

A map of cases in Umatilla County shows that coronavirus hotspots are most noticeable in Hermiston, Umatilla, Pendleton and Milton-Freewater.

You can find the latest coronavirus headlines here.

Oregon Workplace Outbreaks … by KGW News