OHA takes over reporting of workplace COVID outbreaks

Coronavirus

The announcement comes the same day KOIN 6 News learned the location of the latest cluster of workplace-related cases in Multnomah County

Three officials of the Oregon Health Authority testified on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, before a committee of the Oregon Legislature in Salem, on preparations for a possible outbreak of coronavirus in Oregon. Appearing before the House Committee on Health Care were, from left, OHA Director Patrick Allen, Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist, and Akiko Saito, section manager of health security, preparedness and response. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Health Authority will take over the reporting of large COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces, the agency announced Thursday. 

The announcement comes the same day KOIN 6 News learned the location of the latest cluster of workplace-related cases in Multnomah County. OHA reported the outbreak at a business with multiple locations on Wednesday but declined at the time to name the business or disclose exactly how many cases were tied to it. Willamette Week was the first to report the name of the business.

The agency said it will publicly report all past and future outbreaks involving five or more cases of the virus in a workplace setting, no matter where it is located. 

OHA said the only exception would be if reporting an outbreak compromises the identity of an individual or source. 

Before now, local public health departments were in charge of investigating and reporting outbreaks of communicable diseases if an outbreak only affected a single county, OHA said. The OHA would get involved if an outbreak involved multiple counties or the Oregon portion of a national outbreak. 

OHA said under state law, health officials can only report information when public health is at risk or when data is officially published. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic demands that we all rethink how we accomplish necessary tasks that are vital to our roles,” said Allen. “OHA believes a consistent, transparent statewide approach to reporting COVID-19 cases in workplaces will give Oregonians more information to help people avoid the risks of COVID-19 infections. We want to ensure employers, workers and customers know the same criteria will apply, no matter where they work or what businesses they support, everywhere in Oregon.”

OHA will publish workplace outbreak information on its COVID-19 website. 

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