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Eight Harry & David employees test positive for COVID-19

Eight Harry & David employees and three close contacts have tested positive for COVID-19, Jackson County Public Health and Harry & David officials said.

The employees are isolating at home, according to Kathleen Waugh, vice president of public relations for 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., Harry & David’s parent company.

Public health officials began investigating the cases as a potential outbreak Oct. 15. An outbreak is reported by county and state health authorities when there are five or more cases, if the workplace has 30 or more workers, and if there is a “shared, defined exposure with at least one other case,” according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Harry & David saw a previous outbreak in June when seven employees and three close contacts of some of the employees tested positive for COVID-19. Those employees worked the morning shift in the building’s specialty foods area. Morning shift employees were sent home, and all shifts in specialty foods and adjacent areas were deep cleaned.

The company instituted “significant social distancing, de-densifying and sanitizing procedures” from the early days of the pandemic, Waugh said.

Whether the company’s latest cases were spread at work or resulted from community spread that employees brought back to the workplace is under investigation, county Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames said. Not much risk is expected at the workplace, but officials are still “putting the pieces together,” Shames said.

“It takes quite a while to figure that out, and in our experience it’s usually a mix of the two, which is why identifying an outbreak is always so problematic,” Shames said. “Because people often commute together, they often live together, they know each other, they congregate out of work. So it’s a little hard. I strongly suspect it’s going to be a mixture of both, and since there’s so much community spread right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of what we’re seeing is community spread.”

Those who were within six feet of a confirmed case for 15 minutes will be considered contacts, and will be asked to quarantine.

On Friday, county health officials reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 in Jackson County, the second-highest number of cases in a day since the pandemic began.

The county has reported 128 news cases since Oct. 18, a 38% jump from the same period the previous week.

Of the 1,617 cases reported by the county since the start of the pandemic, 225 were still considered infectious Friday. There have been 115 hospitalizations and six deaths in the county from the illness.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 550 new cases statewide, the most the state has seen in a day since the pandemic started, according to a news release.

“Preliminary data show this increase is due to continued widespread community transmission resulting in small clusters and outbreaks across the state,” the release said.

The state reported three more deaths Friday, raising the death toll to 649. State health officials urged residents to wear face coverings while indoors at their workplace and all other places where they will be in contact with people from outside their household. Oregonians have been asked to avoid Halloween trick-or-treating to help mitigate the virus spread.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.