A coronavirus outbreak at the Astoria Middle School construction site has been tied to six virus cases.

The Oregon Health Authority disclosed the outbreak at Skanska USA Construction Inc., the Astoria School District’s contractor, on Wednesday in a weekly coronavirus report.

Astoria Middle School

A workplace virus outbreak occurred at the Astoria Middle School construction site.

Superintendent Craig Hoppes said the virus cases include workers and contacts, and that no staffers at the school came into contact with the workers who tested positive.

He said workers affected were outside in the open air and did not come into the building at any time. Once Skanska found out about the cases, Hoppes said, they removed the workers from the construction site and they were quarantined.

Hoppes said Skanska has also implemented additional health and safety measures, including training on Skanska, state and federal guidance for infectious disease precautions, implementation of an infectious disease program, providing additional hand sanitizer and wash stations, requiring and enforcing social distancing and face coverings and enforcing a zero tolerance for working sick policy.

Other measures include increased cleaning and sanitation, reinforcing remote working and shift rotations where possible, screening job sites and taking extra precautions when social distancing is not possible, he said.

According to Hoppes, the virus cases occurred over four weeks ago.

Clatsop County declined to provide more information about the virus cases.

The Astorian had contacted Hoppes and Skanska about potential virus cases in September after receiving tips from people who believed there were positive cases tied to the contractor. The people, who asked to remain anonymous, wanted more information and were concerned about the potential spread of the virus.

Both Hoppes and Skanska declined to confirm the virus cases at the time.

Since late May, the Oregon Health Authority has disclosed workplace outbreaks when five or more virus cases are tied to workplaces with at least 30 employees.

Michael McNickle, the county’s public health director, has taken different approaches to reporting workplace virus cases since the pandemic began. But he recently told The Astorian he would try to follow the health authority’s standard on disclosure.

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

(1) comment

Pedro Gonzales

How many red flags can you find in this article?

What exactly is the county even doing to contain an outbreak at his point?

I've yet to see them do anything consequential.

We first see tourists invade the area with little to no concern for the health of the local population. Clatsop county does nothing. Bumper to bumper traffic confining residents to their homes all summer long, and the county does nothing.

The seafood processor had allegedly already had a problem across the river and failed to cooperate, and Clatsop did nothing to stem the massive outbreak that was coming. Are they even cooperating with Pacific County?

Then another big company has an outbreak and the only thing is done is for the county to hide the results from the public for a month and a half, and have the company apparently punish the employee through a "zero tolerance working while sick policy"?

Hoppes and Skanska should be investigated for criminal conduct if they knowingly allowed this to fester after learning about their infections. Further, why didn't the Astorian publish the knowledge after learning "about potential virus cases in September after receiving tips from people who believed there were positive cases tied to the contractor."

If Hoppes and Skanska refused to confirm the virus cases, the people who wanted more information and were concerned about the potential spread of the virus certainly were significant sources of information worthy of presumed credibility.

Finally, Michael McNickle, the county's public health director, said he would "try" to follow the health authority's standard on disclosure? Exactly why would this be seen as an optional requirement? Don't try, DO!

You state that the Oregon Health Authority has disclosed workplace outbreaks when five or more virus cases are tied to workplaces, but this obviously didn't happen here. Why not?

It is not a surprise that we are now on the watch list. The only surprise is that we were allowed to know about it, as it is apparently bad for business.

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