A semi truck enters the Walmart distribution center in Hermiston in November 2017. Walmart’s Hermiston Distribution Center has been linked to 15 COVID-19 cases according to the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly list of workplace outbreaks.

HERMISTON — Hermiston’s Walmart Distribution Center and Marlette Homes joined the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly list of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks in its Wednesday, July 15, report.

To protect privacy, OHA only names worksites with 30 or more employees, where at least five cases have been linked to the site. The case count includes employees who tested positive, and close contacts of employees who plausibly could have contracted the virus from the employee, given the timeline of symptoms for both parties.

According to the report, the Hermiston Walmart Distribution Center has had 15 cases linked to it, with the investigation into the cases starting on June 30. Marlette Homes had five cases linked to it, with an investigation started July 8. 

In response to a question about how Walmart was handling the outbreak at its distribution center, the company sent a video of Walmart's Executive Vice President of Supply Chain, Greg Smith, explaining safety measures the company takes to protect distribution center workers from COVID-19. Those measures include temperature checks for everyone entering the center, masks, sanitation and social distancing.

Marlette sent an emailed statement that once they learn an employee tested positive, they notify all team members at that location, and instruct those who had close contact with the person to follow CDC guidelines for close contacts. The company said it also has general safety protocols in place, including daily temperature screenings, sanitation and face coverings.

"We wish our team members a quick recovery," the email stated. "We will continue to keep our team informed as we learn more about the current cases."

Lamb Weston’s Hermiston processing facility remained on the report with 124 cases, up from 115 the previous week. The plant closed down and tested all employees when it had its first cases reported on June 15, and spokeswoman Shelby Stoolman said in an email on Wedesday, July 15, that the plant had resumed limited operations with a reduced staff.

Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution reported three employees and 13 inmates had tested positive as of July 15, with four tests negative and 12 still pending. Superintendent Ron Miles said in an email that the prison’s previous report that 16 adults in custody had tested positive as of July 14 had been incorrect and that three who were still pending had been accidentally marked as positive.

He said 29 people were in medical isolation, and 11 of the prison’s 20 units remained quarantined for potential exposure.

Other Umatilla County and Morrow County worksites that remained on the Oregon Health Authority’s list for another week were:

  • Columbia River Processing (Tillamook) in Boardman with 30 cases
  • Shearer’s Foods in Hermiston with 21 cases
  • Atkinson Staffing with 17 cases
  • Oregon Potato Company in Boardman with 11 cases
  • Hill Meat Company in Pendleton with nine cases
  • Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla with eight cases

Umatilla County Public Health also released its latest COVID-19 numbers for the county. The county reported 38 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on July 15.

The new cases bring Umatilla County up to 1,111 confirmed cases and 72 presumptive cases, according to the news release, with 11 patients hospitalized. The county has had eight deaths of people positive for COVID-19.

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