KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Klamath County's second positive test for the new coronavirus came from a Sky Lakes employee, Sky Lakes Medical Center confirmed on Thursday.
The employee works at a facility separate from the primary medical center and Emergency Department, Sky Lakes said.
(Courtesy Sky Lakes Medical Center / LinkedIn)
"Preliminary investigation indicates that, even though the employee displayed no symptoms upon returning for a half-day at work, the individual wore a mask while engaged in close contact with a small number of patients and other staff," Sky Lakes said in a statment. "Testing was initiated after onset of symptoms, and COVID-19 was later confirmed."
Although the employee had recently traveled by plane, they had not visited one of the CDC-designated "hot spots" in the country, Sky Lakes said. However, the trip included a layover at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on the way to Medford.
The case was first announced by Klamath County public health officials on Thursday morning, who said that they had just received confirmation.
"Employers assist in the investigation and contact tracing of healthcare workers who have COVID-19. All individuals with risk of exposure will be notified and given directions about next steps," Klamath County Public Health said.
The individual is being quarantined at home. Anyone who was close to the employee has been contacted, tested for COVID-19, and will also be quarantined for 14 days.
The first case of COVID-19 in Klamath County was announced on March 7, the same day as the first two cases in neighboring Jackson County. Health officials have since said that the first individual was isolated and has recovered from the disease.
Jackson County now has four confirmed cases of new coronavirus, while Josephine County announced two new cases on Thursday. Josephine's county's first case was also a healthcare worker, Asante confirmed.
“Our highest priority is the health and safety of our community. We will take all steps necessary to ensure safety while also holding to our core value of integrity. We will not release the name, address or other identifying information about this person,” said Jennifer Little, KCPH director. “It is a matter of integrity to our team and patient confidentiality.”
Instead of releasing any identifying features about the individual, public health officials in southern Oregon have preferred to use back-tracking investigations to quietly contact any people who have been in close quarters with the individual, followed by quarantine and monitoring for symptoms.
Klamath County Public Health said that the information may not appear in the Oregon Health Authority's daily statewide tally of cases, as health officials did not learn about the positive test until after Thursday's numbers were rounded up at 8 a.m. It should appear in OHA's numbers on Friday.
On Wednesday, Sky Lakes Medical Center announced new visitor restrictions to further protect patients and staff from possible infection with COVID-19, limiting visitors to only adult guardians or caregivers for surgical patients that need them. All surgical updates will now be given over the phone to a designated family member.
"Our providers and staff remain committed to taking care of our friends and neighbors. This situation demonstrates that even when we are well-meaning, we must take the threat of this virus seriously," Sky Lakes said.