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Large local employers report COVID-19 outbreaks

Neither company wanted to do an interview but did answer questions through email and through the phone with NewsWatch 12.

Posted: Jun 11, 2020 5:36 PM
Updated: Oct 1, 2020 9:42 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. – Two large local employers are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace.

According to OSHA, an outbreak is 5 or more cases within a company with 50 or more employees.

Harry & David is reporting 5 new cases, three of which are employees and two that came in close contact with employees. OSHA reported 6 cases connected to Timber Products in Medford. Timber Products tells NewsWatch 12 they only had three employees that tested positive, leaving them to believe the other three cases were through close contact with the other positive cases.

Neither company wanted to do an interview but did answer questions through email and through the phone with NewsWatch 12.

Timber Products first reported a positive case in their Medford Particleboard Mill back in the beginning of April. According to Timber Products’ Marketing Director, all three positive cases involving employees were between late March and late April.

According to Jackson County Public Health, Health Officer Dr. Jim Shames, the 6 cases reported by OSHA were revealed over a length of time.

“We perhaps missed some contacts, they went to their private doctors; it took a while for the pieces of that puzzle to come together, I think by the time the puzzle did come together there were enough cases to make it an outbreak but it didn’t happen all at one time,” said Shames.

The Harry and David cases were all reported at the same time. Right now, employees who have tested positive are under quarantine at home. According to Shames, they will be remain in quarantine until they are symptom-free for at least three days.

Those who had close contact with people who tested positive have been asked to quarantine for two weeks.

Other employees that work in the same area but did not have close contact with people who tested positive will stay home until their test results are received or at least until the end of the week, according to Shames.

“We’re buying ourselves enough time to be able to have them away from congregate settings in the workplace. Once we get the tests back, we can figure out what our strategy will be,” said Shames.

The response of public health depends on how many of the tested employees come back positive for COVID-19.

“At the moment we’re not seeing any glaring exposures so we’re going to sort of follow our usual guidelines plus trying to test everybody, the vast majority of which have no symptoms, just so we can get a handle on where we’re at right now,” said Shames.

Both Timber Products and Harry & David say they are following state guidelines for sanitation and social distancing to ensure worker safety.

OSHA confirms they have received complaints about both Timber Products and Harry & David. When asked about possible investigations into the companies, it responded with “we do not comment on ongoing investigations.”

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