Bales, Nicole. 2020. County, state wrestled over response to pacific seafood outbreak, records show. TCA Regional News, Dec 04, 2020. (accessed December 4, 2020).

Dec. 4—Michael McNickle, Clatsop County’s public health director, sent an email on the morning of Sept. 24 to top administrators at the Oregon Health Authority.

The subject line said it all: “Pac Seafood HUGE outbreak”


The emails, obtained by The Astorian through the Oregon public records law, show the behind-the-scenes uncertainty during the response to the county’s largest workplace outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.


The Astorian sought the emails and other documents to examine the county’s response to the Pacific Seafood outbreak. In the days after the outbreak, McNickle said the county was not aware of what steps had been taken by the seafood processor or the health authority after a worker at the Warrenton plant tested positive for the virus in early September.

The newspaper filed the request for information under the public records law to help better understand the timeline.

The emails, though, do not shed new light into what extra precautions — if any — were taken in the two weeks between the one positive case and the outbreak. Instead, the records illustrate tension between the county and Pacific Seafood that had been building over the spring and summer and county staff’s skepticism of the health authority’s leverage with the Clackamas-based seafood giant.

In early June, McNickle had called for mandatory virus testing of essential workers and more frequent state inspections after outbreaks at Bornstein Seafoods in Astoria and Pacific Seafood in Warrenton. The Astorian, through the public records law, learned the county and Pacific Seafood had clashed during an outbreak in May over whether the close contacts of workers who tested positive had to self-quarantine for 14 days. That outbreak was linked to 15 virus cases.

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