Worker's Decision Not to Take Sick Days Ends With 7 Dead

Oregon county warns of the dangerous effects of a single decision
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2020 11:05 AM CST
A Worker's Illness Multiplied. 7 People Have Died So Far
These two individuals are among the first five people to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Ore., last week.   (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

With the coronavirus spreading as quickly as it does, many people can pay for one infected person's bad decision. Public health officials in Oregon are distinguishing the willful disregard of protocols that leads to superspreader events, such as large weddings, from an individual's poor decision, after a person who was sick there went to work this month and touched off a trail of coronavirus cases. At least seven people died in Douglas County the next two weeks, Oregon Live reports. That's almost 20% of the total pandemic death toll in the county, which the state has decreed is at "extreme risk" from COVID-19. Another outbreak followed, causing the quarantine of 300-plus people. "The latest and most concerning trend is that we are seeing cases where residents are choosing to go to work and school when they are still sick," says Bob Dannenhoffer, the county's health officer. "We can't even imagine the tremendous remorse these people are feeling right now."

As in other states, workers have gradually been returning to their workplaces after shutdowns, per the Washington Post. Safety measures have been taken, and Oregon has a mask mandate, but there have still been outbreaks in meatpacking plants, supermarkets, warehouses, hospitals, and schools. Douglas County has had its problems with parties, too: At least half of the 50 people in their 60s who attended a Halloween party came down with the virus. Dannenhoffer says the county has had an especially rough time with the virus this month, and an examination of the cases shows there's no mystery to it. "There is nothing fancy or special about them," he says. "There is nothing that you have not heard before. They are related to individual choices to attend ... family gatherings, sports gatherings, and lots and lots of parties." (More coronavirus stories.)

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