From Now On, the Oregon Health Authority Will Disclose Locations of COVID Outbreaks of 5 or More Cases

The policy shift comes the same day WW disclosed the location of Multnomah County’s newest cluster of infections.

Townsend Farms. (Wesley Lapointe)

Starting tomorrow, the Oregon Health Authority will announce the locations of all new outbreaks of COVID-19 that involve five or more cases.

"Effective immediately, OHA will publicly report all past and future outbreaks that involve five or more COVID-19 cases in a workplace setting, no matter where the outbreak is located," the agency said in a statement released long after normal business hours.

The agency announced the abrupt policy shift at 8:36 pm on the same day WW reported the name of the latest large workplace-related COVID-19 outbreak—this one at Townsend Farms, a large fruit growing and processing operation headquartered in Fairview in east Multnomah County.

Related: The Source of the Mystery COVID-19 Outbreak in Multnomah County Is Townsend Farms. 

OHA had announced the outbreak Wednesday but declined to disclose where it had taken place.

WW reported Thursday morning that the outbreak was at Townsend Farms, and also reported there had been an outbreak at the same business involving 30 cases earlier this month. That outbreak was not disclosed until WW reported it. (Townsend Farms has not returned messages seeking comment.)

Media disclosure of the locations of outbreaks known to OHA has been a pattern during the pandemic.

Last month, The Oregonian reported on major COVID-19 outbreaks at senior care centers around the state, prompting OHA to begin regular disclosure of outbreaks at congregate living facilities.

Tonight, OHA director Pat Allen said his agency will shift toward transparency.

"The COVID-19 pandemic demands that we all rethink how we accomplish necessary tasks that are vital to our roles," Allen said in a statement. "OHA believes a consistent, transparent statewide approach to reporting COVID-19 cases in workplaces will give Oregonians more information to help people avoid the risks of COVID-19 infections. We want to ensure employers, workers and customers know the same criteria will apply, no matter where they work or what businesses they support, everywhere in Oregon."

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