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County investigates COVID outbreaks at Blackbird, Knife River

Jackson County Public Health is investigating COVID-19 outbreaks at the Blackbird Shopping Center and Knife River Materials, according to a news release.

State and local health officials report outbreaks at workplaces that have 30 or more employees and five or more COVID-19 cases during a two-week period.

The Black Bird investigation started March 17, and the business had six cases as of Wednesday. Three of the cases involved employees, and three others involved “close contacts” of the employees, such as family members, according to store merchandising manager and HR official Tyler Quitt.

The three employees had not been in the store for “a few days,” Quitt said. Employees who may have been in contact with the infected workers have all tested negative. Since the original cases, no new cases have popped up.

The three affected employees are doing better, with no hospitalizations required, according to store officials.

“They’ll still continue to be off work for a little bit,” Quitt said.

An outbreak is considered resolved if there are no new cases identified for 28 days after the last case onset, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Quitt said he is confident the store will be able to achieve that. Store protocols such as mask wearing and physical distancing will continue.

“We definitely have a positive outlook,” Quitt said.

The Knife River investigation started March 9, and six cases had been linked to the workplace as of Wednesday.

The cases involved five employees and a family member of one of the employees, according to Tony Spilde, Knife River’s director of communications.

All five employees have since been cleared to return to work following the required isolation period. The family member “also is doing well,” Spilde said in an email.

“This also doesn’t appear to have been passed along at work,” he said in the email. “After extensive tracing, no close contact was identified in the workplace. These five individuals work in separate functions and were not in close contact with each other or other employees. We’re glad they are healthy and back on the job, and we haven’t had any additional cases on our Medford team since.”

Knife River protocols to mitigate COVID-19 spread have included physical distancing officers at all locations, masking requirements, internal audits, maximum occupancy signage and a communications app for employees that contains coronavirus information, Spilde said.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 379 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, increasing the statewide total to 162,384, including 45 new cases in Jackson County, bringing the local total to 9,033.

Sixteen new cases were reported Wednesday in Josephine County, raising the cumulative total to 2,691.

OHA reported one death from the illness Wednesday, raising the state death toll to 2,368. Jackson County’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 120, Josephine County’s at 60.

On Wednesday, 102 people in Oregon were hospitalized with the disease, seven fewer than Tuesday, with 19 in intensive care, three more than Tuesday.

In Jackson and Josephine counties, 19 people were hospitalized, three fewer than Tuesday, with six people in ICU, two more than Tuesday.

OHA reported Wednesday that 1 million Oregon residents have received one or more doses of a vaccine. Data showed that 585,657 people have been fully vaccinated against the illness, while 433,478 others had received one shot in a two-dose regimen.

In Jackson County, only 26,609 residents are considered fully vaccinated, and just 18,848 others had received one of two doses.

In Josephine County, 8,215 residents have been fully vaccinated, and 10,138 others have received one of two doses.

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