2 separate COVID-19 outbreaks may have started with a person who went to work sick

Officials in Oregon say a "superspreader action" is likely behind two recent COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.

The action in question: A person knowingly went to work while sick and later tested positive for the virus, Douglas County officials said last week.

Two separate COVID-19 outbreaks have now been traced back to that person, officials said. Seven people died as a result of the first outbreak, and hundreds of people were forced to self-isolate over the second one.

"One of those outbreaks has resulted in seven deaths, and the other recent outbreak has placed over 300 people/families in quarantine," a Dec.17 statement from the Douglas County reads. "We can't even imagine the tremendous remorse these people are feeling right now, and we sympathize with them."

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County officials referred to the incident as a "superspreader action," calling it "one of the most concerning issues we are facing right now." It's a twist on the term "superspreader event," which refers to large in-person gatherings such as weddings, parties or religious services where the presence of one infected person has the potential to spur a viral outbreak.

They also urged people to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms and to follow other safety protocols.

Officials didn't share the infected person's place of employment, or when they went to work while sick.

Douglas County, which is located in southern Oregon and has a population of about 111,000, has seen 1,315 total COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday. That includes people who have tested positive for the virus, as well as people who are presumed to be positive.

Thirty-seven people have died of COVID-19 in the county, and nine patients are currently hospitalized with the virus, the latest county data shows.

Last week, Douglas County was among 29 counties in Oregon that state officials deemed to be at "extreme risk" over the spread of the virus.

Oregon has recorded about 105,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths as of Tuesday, and infections have been surging since November.

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