Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Aug. 11, 2020

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Clark County communicating with state over Phase 2 application

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Only three new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Clark County on Friday, boosting efforts to let Clark County move to Phase 2 of the statewide recovery plan.

Thursday night, Clark County Public Health announced that it provided additional information to the state Department of Health regarding its Phase 2 application, which was shelved by the state on May 23, a day after a large COVID-19 outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods was first reported.

The county is seeking additional guidance from the Department of Health, and hopes to soon receive a new timeline for entering Phase 2, which allow barbershops, beauty salons, some retail shops and restaurants to reopen with certain safety measures and/or capacity restrictions in place.

Friday’s confirmed cases show that, so far, Public Health has been successful in containing community spread from the Firestone outbreak, which is linked to 76 employees and 44 close contacts of employees. Over the last four days, fewer than 10 cases have been reported outside of the Firestone outbreak.

Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick has said that he still believes the county is ready to move to Phase 2.

Friday’s three new cases were the smallest daily tally since May 20. It is more in line with the infection numbers that Clark County was seeing before the Vancouver food processing plant experienced an outbreak.

The county now has confirmed 551 total cases, and 25 deaths. No new deaths have been reported since May 15.

Six people are currently hospitalized for coronavirus in Clark County, with 3,413 hospitalized across the state.

Inspection due

Firestone admitted on Wednesday its safety measures were inadequate to protect employees from the spread of COVID-19. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday night that the state Department of Labor & Industries will conduct a formal inspection at the facility.

The inspection was triggered after L&I received a complaint from an anonymous employee at the business, which processes frozen fruit.

The employee alleges that between 25 to 30 employees sat shoulder-to-shoulder during breaks and shared dishware during lunches. The complaint also alleges that contractors, when visiting the facility, were not asked to wear face masks.

“This plant did not do their part,” the complaint reads.

Firestone CEO Josh Hinerfeld told OPB in a statement that the company is encouraging employees to cooperate with the inspection.

“I encouraged the team to speak openly and honestly and underscored that the feedback would be handled with discretion by (Labor & Industries),” Hinerfeld said. “I welcome the scrutiny in the spirit of receiving constructive feedback to promote the safety of our team.”

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