Second coronavirus outbreak hits Townsend Farms, but the state never disclosed the first

Second coronavirus outbreak hits Townsend Farms, but the state never disclosed the first

This story is breaking and will be updated. State officials confirmed Thursday that Townsend Farms, a fruit company with two Portland area facilities, is the site of the large coronavirus outbreak referenced by state health officials Wednesday that infected nearly 50 workers. It is Townsend’s second COVID-19 outbreak since late April, but state and local public health officials never publicly disclosed the first -- even though, at the time, it would have been the state’s largest concentration of cases in a food processing facility. That outbreak involved 53 of Townsend’s year-round employees, state officials said. In the more recent incident, at least 48 out of a group of 350 seasonal workers who arrived in the Portland area on May 23 and 24 have tested positive, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Health officials said they believe the workers contracted the virus prior to coming to the Portland area, where they planned to harvest fruit from Townsend’s properties in Fairview and Cornelius. The state helped Townsend test the seasonal workers shortly after they arrived, officials said, with 41 testing positive in Fairview and seven in Cornelius. None of those who tested positive were seriously ill, officials said. Thirteen tests from the group are still pending. “People employed in agriculture are essential workers. They are also a vital part of our community,” Patrick Allen, Oregon Health Authority 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 ...
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