COVID-19 outbreak linked to Hood River fruit packing company, Oregon health officials say

The Oregon Health Authority on Friday said an outbreak involving at least six people has been connected to Duckwall Fruit.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority is investigating a coronavirus outbreak believed to be connected to a fruit packing company in Hood River.

Officials on Friday said an outbreak involving at least six people has been connected to Duckwall Fruit. The investigation into the outbreak began Friday. State and county officials are working with Duckwall Fruit to protect workers.

The risk from the outbreak to the general public is considered low, the OHA said. Anyone concerned about their risk or exposure is advised to call their health care provider.

The announcement of the outbreak comes a day after the OHA said it would begin publicly reporting workplace COVID-19 outbreaks involving five or more people.

Earlier this week, the state public health agency was heavily criticized for not identifying Townsend Farms as the business connected to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Portland area. When the OHA first publicly announced there was an outbreak in the metro area, they withheld the name of the business, even after multiple requests for more information from KGW, other media outlets and Oregonians.

Townsend Farms’ connection to the outbreak was first reported by Willamette Week and The Oregonian, before OHA publicly announced the company’s involvement. Moreover, there was a previous outbreak at the Townsend Farms location in Fairview in April that was only reported as part of the state’s daily coronavirus case count.

The backlash over transparency led to the head of the OHA, Patrick Allen, to direct the public reporting of all past and future outbreaks involving at least five cases in a workplace.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demands that we all rethink how we accomplish necessary tasks that are vital to our roles,” Allen said.

Fruit plants have been at the center of recent outbreaks in Oregon and Southwest Washington. In addition to Duckwall Fruit and Townsend Farms, Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver is dealing with an outbreak that has infected 85 people, 70 of which are employees and 15 are close contacts of workers. The outbreak has delayed Clark County from entering the second phase of Washington’s reopening plan.

RELATED: Clark County businesses wait for Phase 2 entry while application is still paused

On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the state will invest $30 million in COVID-19 relief funding to protect agricultural workers and help secure the state’s food supply.

RELATED: Oregon to invest $30 million to protect farmworkers, food supply