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Fri, May 14, 2021 07:31
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COVID-19 outbreak at WestRock Longview mill infects at least 10 employees, 1 has died

WASHINGTON (From news reports) -- At least 10 WestRock employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, and one employee died from complications of the virus, according to Cowlitz County Health and Human Services.

"We send our deepest sympathy to the family for their loss," Communications Manager Stefanie Donahue said in a statement Thursday. "We are working in close partnership with WestRock to notify anyone who may have been exposed and to make sure all cases are isolated."

The county was notified of six COVID-19 cases among workers April 16, and an additional four cases have been identified since then, Donahue said. The department is not providing additional details on the cases to protect patients' privacy and confidentiality.

"This is should be a reminder for us all to continue taking preventative measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to get vaccinated," Donahue said.

WestRock Spokesperson Courtney James said the company is working with the county on contact tracing, and the mill is following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when an employee tests positive.

"There is nothing more important to WestRock than the health and safety of our employees," James said in an email. "We continue to take the proper steps to protect the health and safety of our WestRock team, including practicing social distancing, implementing daily health screenings and temperature checks, and reinforcing proper hygiene and preventative practices."

Cowlitz County reported 19 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. The county has recorded a total of 5,163 cases and 68 deaths.

Wahkiakum County reported its 108th case Tuesday, bringing the number of active cases to four. The county considers cases with a positive test result in the last 21 days to be active, according to the health department.

The number of people who have immunity from COVID-19 vaccination is surpassing the number who have immunity from infection, according to the latest statewide situation report. Increasing immunity is helping control transmission but isn't enough to counteract "risky behavior," according to the report.

Cases identified as "variants of concern" -- COVID-19 strains that may spread faster, cause more severe illness or affect antibodies' ability to recognize the virus -- also are increasing, the Department of Health stated.

COVID-19 cases are increasing across the state in all ages except those 70 and older, according to the state Department of Health.

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