Saturday, July 4, 2020
July 4, 2020

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Seven new COVID-19 cases reported, bringing Clark County’s total to 558

Four of the new cases are linked to outbreak at Vancouver's Firestone Pacific Foods

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

As four more COVID-19 cases were connected to the outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods on Monday, Clark County continues to wait on a timeline for when the county could enter Phase 2, and reopen more businesses.

Clark County Public Health said in a news release Monday that Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick plans to meet with state Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman, and that more information around Phase 2 will be provided today.

According to a statement from state Department of Health spokeswoman Jessica Baggett, Clark County and the department of health are continuing discussions on Phase 2.

“We do not have any updates or information at this time,” Baggett said in an email. “We hope to have more to share this week.”

Clark County’s Phase 2 application was shelved May 23, one day after the county applied for Phase 2, and the outbreak at Firestone was publicly announced by Public Health.

The Firestone outbreak has been connected to 124 of the county’s 558 confirmed cases. At Firestone, 77 employees have contracted coronavirus, with 71 of those employees residing in Clark County. Another 47 close contacts of employees, who all live in Clark County, have also tested positive for the virus.

There are 25 COVID-19 deaths in Clark County, and six people remain hospitalized for coronavirus.

In total, 172 Firestone employees and 147 close contacts have been tested for COVID-19.

Firestone will resume some of its production this week, a little more than two weeks after the outbreak first manifested at the food processing facility.

The facility has been deeply sanitized, according to Jane Richards, a spokeswoman for Firestone.

The facility has been allowed to restart some production, after working with Public Health and the state State Department of Labor & Industries.

Workers will not be able to return to work until they have passed through quarantine protocol, according to a Firestone safety plan. The company has implemented a number of new safety measures after Public Health found flaws in Firestone’s precautions that were in place before the outbreak.

There will be Plexiglas barriers between workers on the production line, according to the safety plan, and Firestone will also tape off its water fountains and implement greater physical distancing. Last week, Oregon Public Broadcasting first reported that L&I is investigating a complaint from an employee, which alleged that 25 to 30 employees sat should-to-shoulder during work breaks.

The complaint said Firestone did not do its part to protect employees. Richards said in an email that the company feels like it has put the proper improvements in place.

“We are undertaking a measured startup in close collaboration with Clark County, and are taking steps to ensure that returning staff are trained in our updated procedures for clocking in, undertaking medical screenings, and social distancing,” Richards said in an email.

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