State puts Clark County Phase 2 variance request on pause due to outbreak

Published Date

Clark County Public Health was notified today that the state has put the county’s request for a Phase 2 variance on pause until further discussion next week. The decision is the result of a current COVID-19 outbreak at a Vancouver food processing facility.

As of this morning, 38 employees of Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver have tested positive for COVID-19. At least two of those people are not Clark County residents. One person has been hospitalized.

“While this outbreak is unfortunate, our response demonstrates we have the confidence and capability to respond to situations like this,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director.

Public Health has been working closely with Firestone Pacific Foods, Washington Labor & Industries and The Vancouver Clinic in response to the outbreak. Public Health instructed Firestone to stop production on Tuesday to prevent the virus from continuing to spread among employees. There is currently no evidence COVID-19 can spread through food or food packaging.

Production at the facility remains stopped. Public Health is working with Firestone and Labor & Industries to develop a plan to help the facility better align with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public Health also coordinated with The Vancouver Clinic and Firestone to facilitate COVID-19 testing of all employees. That testing began Friday afternoon. Prior to beginning the facility-wide testing, 12 cases had been identified in the outbreak. Another 26 positive results were reported to Public Health Friday afternoon, after facility-wide testing began.

Everyone who tests positive is instructed to isolate at home. Public Health staff is interviewing all positive cases to identify and notify close contacts, who will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. This process is ongoing for the cases identified Friday.

“Public Health has gone above and beyond in its response to this outbreak,” said Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring. “As our community moves forward, whether next week or in the weeks that follow, we may unfortunately see more positive cases. Public Health’s efforts during this outbreak show they have the ability to effectively respond to outbreaks in order to keep our community healthy.”

Testing of Firestone employees is expected to continue today. Public Health will provide another update on case numbers on Tuesday.

Practicing physical distancing and taking simple steps to prevent the spread of viruses remain important. Remember to wash hands frequently, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and stay home when you’re sick. If you cannot stay at least 6 feet from others when out in public, you should wear a cloth face covering.

As a result of the state’s decision, Clark County remains in Phase 1. Residents and businesses should continue to follow the Phase 1 guidance outlined by the governor. Phase 2 guidance is also available on the governor’s website. Local businesses can refer to this guidance to prepare for reopening, however, they should not begin offering services until the county is moved into Phase 2.

Public Health does not have a timeline on when Clark County may enter Phase 2.

For more information about COVID-19 and the Public Health response, visit the Public Health website.

Marissa Armstrong
communications specialist
Public Health