EUGENE, Ore. — More than 100 workers at Newport’s Pacific Seafood plants have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, making it the second-largest workplace outbreak in the state.
Lincoln County officials announced 65 coronavirus cases early Sunday linked to the seafood operation but updated the number of confirmed positive cases to 124 later the same day.
Of the 376 workers from five Newport facilities tested late last week, 53 employees and 71 locally-based contractors tested positive, according to a statement released by Pacific Seafood. The vast majority — 95% — were asymptomatic.
Initial reports show positive tests are concentrated at the Pacific Shrimp processing site, though all five facilities have since closed temporarily to sanitize.
The facilities will reopen “as soon as we are able to confirm the safety of our team members, fleet, and community,” the company statement said.
Pacific Seafood is a family-owned and operated company that manages all parts of the supply chain from harvesting/fishing to processing, and distribution, according to the company website. Their products include seafood, beef, pork, and poultry. Their most popular items include oysters, Dungeness crab, rockfish, coldwater shrimp, wild salmon and steelhead.
The company is headquartered in Clackamas and employs more than 3,000 employees across 41 facilities in 11 states.
Only the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, with 165 cases, has more, according to a weekly OHA report. Townsend Farms in Multnomah County is now third with 51 cases.
The investigation into the outbreak started June 2 after one employee tested positive, but the initial case count was below the threshold for public disclosure, OHA officials said in a release Sunday.
Additional cases were confirmed June 3. All 376 employees were tested by a private contractor hired by Pacific Seafood.
“State and county public health officials are working with the business to address the outbreak and protect the health of workers,” health officials said.
In a Monday press conference, Lincoln County Health and Human Services officials said they are working with Pacific Seafood and OHA to notify all those who have been confirmed positive and to trace those who had contact with positive cases.
“If you get a call from a contact tracer, please answer or return the message,” Lincoln County health officials said. “These calls help us keep our families and communities safe.”
Employees of the seafood plant who have tested positive were asked to quarantine in their homes for 14 days. Their families and close contacts were also asked to isolate themselves.
Rebecca Austen, Lincoln County health department director, said prior to the outbreak, the company had a “tool kit” for how to keep workers safe. “As far as whether they carried those out, I can’t speak to that.”
The company’s statement said they would continue to expand efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and “resume all existing protocols … that go above and beyond current CDC guidance” including sanitation, face covering worn by all workers, plastic face shields and daily temperature checks.
Though an initial news release from OHA said the “risk to the general public is considered low,” Dr. Paul Cieslak, public health physician with the Oregon Health Authority, said the virus is present within Lincoln County and there will be some risk to county residents.
Cieslak advised residents to continue to stay home if possible; and keep a 6-foot distance and wear a face mask out in public.
Officials do not believe there is any risk of transmission from the food at the plant, Cieslak added.
Austen said the county would remain in Phase 1 of the reopening process, and will not go into Phase 2 until “we can get a handle on this.”