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Oregon outbreak reporting rules different for nursing homes

Regarding your story about active COVID-19 outbreaks at Jackson County workplaces and skilled nursing homes, I’m wondering, why are the outbreak numbers separate? Aren’t nursing homes a workplace?

— Archie, via instant message

Yes, skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities are technically workplaces — at least in the sense that many Southern Oregonians make their living at care homes — but there’s differences between when state or local health officials must publicly report a viral outbreak at a care home compared to when they must report an outbreak at one of the region’s largest employers.

For those just tuning in, the Oregon Health Authority issued its weekly outbreak report Wednesday showing active coronavirus outbreaks at six Jackson County workplaces and 12 local assisted living and skilled nursing homes.

Standard workplace outbreaks — such as those of Amy’s Kitchen, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office or separate wings of Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford — are reported by county and state health officials in instances where there’s 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.

Reportable care home outbreaks may still be reportable if the facility has fewer than 30 employees. According to the Dec. 30 Oregon Health Authority report, the state releases data on outbreaks when there’s three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more deaths. In those care home outbreak reports the state combines the case numbers for staff, residents and any infected close contacts and lists information about deaths from the outbreak.

The exception, according to the state, is extremely small congregate facilities and foster homes across Oregon that have five or fewer beds. The state does not publicly release information about those outbreaks to protect patient privacy beyond that they’ve recorded 155 outbreaks in those particular settings.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.