Salem Hospital (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
Sixty-four people have contracted Covid in an outbreak at Salem Hospital in the past week, the Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday.
But the hospital disputed the health authority’s characterization, saying Friday that those numbers reflect employees who contracted Covid in the community along with their family members, rather than transmission occurring at the hospital.
The health authority reports weekly outbreaks of Covid at workplaces with more than 30 employees where more than five people have contracted Covid. The number of people counted in an outbreak includes both employees and their close contacts who fall ill, such as roommates or family members.
Salem Hospital has had an active Covid outbreak since May 2020, according to those reports, usually adding a handful of cases each week. The hospital has previously said those cases are typically not among employees working together and pointed out they employ over 5,000 people.
But the Aug. 4 report showed 283 total Covid cases since the outbreak began, an increase of 64 over last week’s report of 219 total cases.
Salem Health spokeswoman Lisa Wood said of the 64 newly-added, only 16 are employees, seven of whom had been fully vaccinated against Covid. The rest are family members or other contacts of employees.
Fourteen of those employees got Covid in the community, rather than at work, she said.
“Any employee who tests positive for COVID-19, has had an exposure of any kind or is showing any COVID-like symptoms is required to quarantine until they are symptom free and are no longer a risk to others. If there is a suspicion that the transmission could have occurred at work, thorough contract tracing occurs,” Wood said in an email.
The hospital said in the last week of July that any employees who declined to be vaccinated against Covid would be tested for the virus regularly. Wood said that policy was “in response to low community vaccination rates and increasing cases in the community, as an added protection for our patients and staff.”