MEDFORD, Ore. — Public health officials in Jackson County reported a new record daily high for coronavirus cases on Wednesday, in addition to an investigation into cases tied to a workplace outbreak at the Amy's Kitchen processing facility in White City.
Jackson County Public Health reported 24 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the county's total since the beginning of the pandemic to 618 confirmed and presumptive cases. Nearly 200 of those cases are considered "active infectious."
"Jackson County Public Health continues to report an increase in COVID-19 cases in Jackson County," the agency said. "During the week of August 8, 2020, Jackson County reported 93 new cases, which is a case rate of 42 cases per 100,000, and an average of 13.3 cases per day. This was the most cases reported in a week since the beginning of the pandemic."
This week, officials said, Jackson County has continued to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, with a three-day average of 20.3 cases per day. Many of those cases have been traced back to social gatherings among family and friends — including people from the same household, extended families, and friends.
"People assume that because they are home, with family and friends, that they are safe, that it is a trusted environment, therefore they aren’t at risk for contracting COVID-19,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Health Officer.
The agency also said that it is officially investigating a workplace outbreak of 18 cases tied to Amy's Kitchen in White City, which includes household members and other close contacts of employees.
Though the company confirmed last week that it had seen multiple cases among employees since the beginning of the pandemic, both the company and public health data indicated that they were not considering it a workplace outbreak at the time. Regardless, Jackson County Public Health said on Wednesday that an outbreak investigation began on July 28 and is ongoing.
It was not immediately clear why the outbreak did not appear on the Oregon Health Authority's previous weekly reports listing workplace outbreaks.
"Jackson County Public Health’s investigation has found that the spread is mostly occurring outside of the workplace setting in social gatherings among co-workers, family, and friends," the agency said. "Amy’s Kitchen has been a good partner in the investigation process and has continued to implement measures that will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace setting."
In a statement to NewsWatch 12 on Wednesday, Amy's Kitchen spokesperson Jen Tucci maintained that the cases linked to employees at the White City processing plant still have not been traced to spread within the plant itself.
"Rising case counts within the state and Jackson County have inevitably resulted in some positive cases among our employees, most traced to household transmission and social gatherings, but we are doing everything we can to protect everyone at work and to promote vigilance in and outside of the plant," Tucci said.
Based on demographic data from Jackson County, spread of the virus continues to spike among younger groups, with the vast majority of cases among people under the age of 50.