MEDFORD, Ore. — Horton Plaza, a retirement community in Medford, says the Oregon Health Authority has falsely reported a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. The outbreak was reported in a weekly update by OHA on Wednesday, October 14. The following day, Horton Plaza reached out to NewsWatch 12 about what it says is a false report.
NewsWatch 12 originally reported the OHA reported workplace outbreaks on Wednesday as well.
In Table 5 (page 11) of the report, The Oregon Health Authority says "Active outbreaks in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19 related deaths (n=40)."
In that section, OHA reported that Horton Plaza had four cases of COVID-19. It also reported that those cases were originally reported on September 23.
Horton Plaza reached out to NewsWatch 12 to tell us that it has only had one case of COVID-19. Horton Plaza says it was an isolated employee case. It also says the case has since been cleared.
Horton Plaza also says the false report caused an unnecessary scare at the facility.
"So, of course a lot of our residents were upset and they were scared thinking that we were not telling them about potential issues or COVID cases which creates a lot of uncertainty for our residents," said general manager Danielle Stovall.
While digging into more information, NewsWatch 12 came across another list of workplaces reporting COVID-19 cases on Oregon.gov. The list was published on Tuesday, October 13. The list makes no mention of Horton Plaza having any cases of COVID-19. So, on Tuesday, Horton Plaza was reported by Oregon.gov to have no cases. On Wednesday, it was reported by Oregon Health Authority to have a workplace outbreak.
Horton Plaza wants the community to know that it is still a safe place for its residents to be.
"Retirement communities, and assisted living facilities, and nursing homes get a bad rap during this whole process," said Stovall. "I do know that Horton Plaza and all of the things that we do here to keep our residents, and our employees, and their families safe are of the highest standard that you can possibly find."
While cross checking those lists, NewsWatch 12 reached out to five different facilities in Southern Oregon that were listed to have had workplace outbreaks. Of those, The Suites Assisted Living and Memory Care facility in Grants Pass confirmed that it does not have any cases of COVID-19. Though it is listed with three past cases among facilities listed as “Recently resolved outbreaks in care facilities,” it says its single coronavirus case passed early this year. The other facilities have not reached back out to NewsWatch 12.
The Oregon Health Authority appears to have removed Horton Plaza from the "Active Outbreaks" list.
An OHA official acknowledged to NewsWatch 12 on Friday that the outbreak listed at Horton Plaza was an error on the state agency's part — confirming that the facility had one prior case, and that the listing has now been removed from the weekly report.
OHA spokesman Philip Schmidt also provided some insight into why the agency might continue to report outbreaks that the states' Department of Human Services considers resolved.
"DHS and OHA have different criteria for when facilities see their outbreak resolved and come off the list. For DHS a facility is removed from the list 14 days after the last positive case in a staff or resident. For OHA, an outbreak is not considered resolved until 28 days after the last case onset," Schmidt said.
"We’ve updated our report, and some of the facilities on our report have been removed as we do our routine data cleaning," Schmidt continued. "As you know, all data we post is provisional and subject to revision as we learn more."
EDIT: This article has been updated with responses from the Oregon Health Authority.