VANCOUVER, Wash. — Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver, Washington, has started reopening after a coronavirus outbreak infected 132 people and forced the fruit processor to halt operations.
The company reopened last week after the Clark County public health department approved it, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. A Firestone spokesperson says the company plans to ramp up production as more employees return from mandatory 14-day quarantine periods and receive training on new safety procedures.
Clark County’s public health department has linked 132 coronavirus cases to the company since May 23, making it the largest known workplace outbreak in the Portland area.
As of Monday morning, 79 employees and another 53 people identified as close contacts of those employees had tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 173 employees and 155 close contacts have been tested.
Firestone Pacific Foods CEO Josh Hinerfeld said last month that the company could have done more to protect employees before the outbreak.
During the outbreak investigation, an investigator for Clark County’s public health department raised concerns over a lack of physical distancing at the plant, as well as the sharing of clock-in and clock-out paperwork.
Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries also opened an inspection into the company and Firestone has worked with the agency to create and implement a new 50-point safety plan to protect employees.
Washington state health officials temporarily suspended Clark County’s application to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan because of the Firestone outbreak. Clark County was approved to enter Phase 2 on Friday.
Food processing plants have been the sites of coronavirus outbreaks throughout the United States and Pacific Northwest. As of June 1, nearly 300 COVID-19 cases had been linked to agricultural or food processing workplaces in Oregon or Southwest Washington, according to a tally of publicly disclosed cases.
Additionally on Sunday, Pacific Seafood in Newport disclosed 124 of its employees and contractors have tested positive for the disease.