Residents of the low-income senior residential building Rosemont Court were alerted to another case of the rare water-borne disease called Legionnaires’ disease this month. People catch the illness by breathing in the bacteria.
The first outbreaks were reported earlier this year at the North Portland building, and subsequent breakouts occurred in the months following, including a spate of new cases in June.
The latest two notices, delivered to residents on Oct. 1 and 8, reported a new case of a resident falling ill with the disease, traced back to Sept. 30.
A letter tacked on residents’ doors on Oct. 1 from the Multnomah County Health Department first reported the latest case. Both letters were shared with WW.
“This letter is to let you know that a resident of Rosemont Court was confirmed to be sick with Legionnaires’ disease late yesterday,” the letter from the county read.
The county noted that the last reported illness prior to the new discoveries was on June 17. It urged residents to permanently relocate.
“Water test results for Legionella can be hard to interpret. We and the Centers for Disease Control are worried that there may still be Legionella in Rosemont’s water. Right now we agree that using fresh, well-fitted filters on all faucets should make the risk of Legionella much lower,” the letter read.
And a notice one week later on Oct. 8 from Northwest Housing Alternatives, the affordable housing group that owns the property, and Income Property Management, the building manager, reiterated the concerns brought on by the new case: “Despite best efforts to identify the source of the bacteria and mitigate the situation, we are so very concerned that this continues to happen,” the letter read. “We continue to work with the Multnomah County Health Department and other experts to investigate the source.”
The letter echoed the county’s Oct. 1 alert, strongly urging residents to relocate out of Rosemont Court, saying it is “in your best interest” to move. But a former resident of Rosemont, Jane Foreman, who moved out in June, says many of the residents there are hesitant to leave a community they’ve had for decades, and also can’t afford more expensive apartments.
“Currently people are paying $300-$700 a month, and this relocation service publishes notices saying there’s apartments available for $1,000 for a studio and $1,295 for a one-bedroom,” Foreman says. “How can you go from $300 to $1,300 a month? You can’t.”
Throughout the outbreaks over the past year, relocation has not been made mandatory, except for few weeks earlier this year when residents were temporarily lodged in hotels.
Health officials have struggled to find the source of the outbreak, KGW reported in June.
Northwest Housing Alternatives executive director Trell Anderson told WW in a statement: “We continue to work with the Multnomah County Health Department and other experts to investigate the source. We are providing relocation assistance to every resident and have made it clear that it is in their best interest to relocate as quickly as possible. This is a tough situation. We are urgently working with a housing relocation service and community partners to ensure every resident finds another affordable housing option.”
Anderson added that the source of the outbreak is still unknown.