COVID-19 Outbreak at Stahlbush Island Farms; Nine Employees Infected 

In an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) report released on Wednesday, Aug. 12, it was noted that Stahlbush Island Farms, a local agricultural business that produces frozen and pureed fruits and vegetables, faces an active COVID-19 outbreak. The report showed a total of nine cases at Stahlbush, with the most recent probably having started on July 28.   

Co-owner of Stahlbush, Karla Chambers, said all infected employees have been self-quarantining at home since being diagnosed. Because OHA considers a workplace outbreak to be active for 28 days after the beginning of the most recent case, Stahlbush’s outbreak could be cleared by Aug. 25 if no new cases are reported.   

354 people are currently employed at Stahlbush Island Farms and all have been tested for the virus – of the nine who tested positive, three showed signs of disease with the other six being asymptomatic.   

Chambers claimed that before the outbreak, many safety precautions were implemented at their locations. As reported by the Corvallis Gazette-Times, these precautions included: “requiring social distancing and face masks, realigning equipment, temporarily halting the processing of some products that put workers too close together, installing Plexiglas barriers and extra hand-washing stations, requiring temperature checks, and staggering employee lunch breaks.”  

Despite Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist commending Chambers for her efforts to protect employees from the virus, spokesman for the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) Aaron Covin reported that the agency has received two complaints about Stahlbush Island Farms’ handling of COVID-19, according to the Gazette-Times report.  

The first of these complaints was investigated and then closed because OSHA believed Stahlbush’s response to the complaint’s allegations was “adequate.” The second complaint, which claims that the company is not requiring workers to wear masks indoors and that owners and managers are not wearing masks while working, is still under investigation, although Chambers disputes it.   

Other COVID News  

The Stahlbush outbreak comes at the same time as two other startling pieces of COVID-19 news.   

The OHA released Friday, Aug. 14, results of a new study that showed one percent of Oregonians without the virus “had evidence of past infection of the virus in their blood, which is 10 times higher than the reported rate of infections obtained through conventional testing.” This suggests that a “substantial” portion of Oregonians have undiagnosed and unreported infection from this virus.   

Additionally, the Oregon Department of Corrections confirmed Friday that a second inmate has died due to COVID-19 while in custody. The man who has not been named was between 60 and 70 years of age and died at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario this past Wednesday.  

By Cara Nixon