Coronavirus outbreak sickens dozens at Townsend Farms

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — State officials have confirmed that a fruit company with two Portland area facilities is the site of the large coronavirus outbreak referenced by state health officials Wednesday that infected dozens of workers.

It’s Townsend Farms’ second COVID-19 outbreak since late April, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

At least 48 out of a group of 350 seasonal workers who arrived in the Portland area over the weekend have tested positive, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Health officials said they believe the workers contracted the virus before coming to the area, where they planned to harvest fruit from Townsend-owned sites in Fairview and Cornelius.

The state worked with Townsend to test the workers shortly after they arrived, officials said, and 13 tests are still pending. It’s unclear if the workers ever made it to either Townsend facility.

“People employed in agriculture are essential workers. They are also a vital part of our community,” Patrick Allen, Oregon Health Authority director said in a statement. “The agricultural work environment can put them at higher risk of infection from a communicable disease like COVID-19, and we need to do everything we can to reduce that risk.”

State officials also confirmed Thursday that Townsend had an outbreak among “permanent” employees in Fairview that began April 29.

The Townsend Farms company, founded in 1906, offers an assortment of frozen berries, including under the Kirkland brand sold at Costco.

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