Clark County public health officials are urging nearly 300 people who visited a chiropractic office in Washington last week to quarantine immediately because they may have been exposed to COVID-19 by an infected worker.
The county took the unusual step of publishing the case Wednesday in an effort to quickly reach visitors through media coverage. Officials expect it will take contact trackers several days to speak to anyone who visited the facility.
The use of masks in the office had been “inconsistent”
“We wanted to make sure that the people who were exposed to and at risk of getting sick were quarantined immediately,” Armstrong said.
The public alarm from Washington officials differs markedly from how officials typically operate in Oregon, where authorities rarely or never report incidents involving potential exposure. Clark County officials issued a similar statement in July when four employees and 14 customers visiting a bar became infected.
In the latter case, a worker who “spent a significant amount of time with patients” in the chiropractic office tested positive for COVID-19 this week, Armstrong said. The facility is Chiro One Wellness Center Salmon Creek at 13800 NE 20th Ave., north of Vancouver.
Public health officials are asking everyone who visited the office 8-11. September to apply for test and quarantine for 14 days from the date of the visit.
Federal guidance considers anyone who spent at least 15 minutes within a meter of an infected person as a close contact. But because of inconsistent use of masks at the facility, Clark County health officials are considering anyone who visited a close contact, Armstrong said.
Among the vulnerable are 14 other employees at the plant. Patients who visited the office on other days or visited other chiropractic sites are not at risk and do not need quarantine, officials said.
Clark County officials would typically only issue a public notice of potential exposure if they could not identify people who may have been in contact with an infected individual, Armstrong said. In this case, officials have contact information for everyone who visited, but nevertheless decided to announce the threat because it will take several days to reach patients by phone.
“We do not want these people out in public and continuing their lives” and potentially spreading the virus to others, Armstrong said.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority, the state public health agency, said it would be open to a similar type of notification for Oregonians if the same circumstances apply locally.
The Oregon Health Authority “would advise a local public health department to take the necessary steps to protect public health and safety through a mass announcement if other means would not be effective,” Dr. Melissa Sutton, medical director of respiratory viral pathogens, said in a statement.
– Brad Schmidt; email@example.com; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt