Washington County aims to prevent workplace outbreaks with toolkit and enforcement line
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 22, 2020
“As part of the county’s contact tracing process, we ask people who have tested positive to tell us where they work,” said Theresa Koppang, who coordinates Washington County’s COVID-19 business strike team. “We then call their employer to let them know one of their employees has tested positive for COVID-19. We use the toolkit to educate the employer, and to make sure they are following safety guidelines to limit transmission of the virus to other employees.”
The toolkit contains information about providing mandatory sick leave for employees who test positive, protecting employees from discrimination or retaliation, common symptoms of COVID-19, guidelines about when an employee can return to work, and an extensive checklist for employers to make sure they are reducing the chance of transmission.
- Do you have updated contact information for each of your employees?
- Do you have a designated person to work with the health department?
- Do you have a plan if several of your employees are sick at the same time?
- Do you have signs in appropriate languages and literacy levels?
- Do you regularly discuss COVID-19 safety guidelines with employees?
Koppang says that most businesses are happy to receive the toolkit and appreciate the information. “They want to do the right thing, and they also want to keep their doors open.” Koppang adds, “We encourage all businesses to use the toolkit not just to address an outbreak, but also to prevent one.”
While the toolkit is designed specifically for employers, the county also has a business enforcement phone line and email address for the public. Community members can report Washington County businesses that are not adhering to safety guidelines and orders from the governor, such as requiring face coverings for employees and customers, and keeping people six feet apart. Washington County businesses with questions about the guidelines can also call the enforcement line.
“We receive about 60 complaints a week,” said Environmental Health Program Supervisor Jon Kawaguchi. “Our staff call the businesses to educate them about the governor’s executive orders and guidance. Depending on the number and severity of complaints, we can also send someone out to do an onsite visit. If the business still doesn’t comply, we can make a referral to the sheriff’s office, but that’s a last resort.”
To report a possible violation, call 503-846-8390 or email
To see how two Washington County businesses are implementing safety guidelines, watch these videos.
Media Contact:Mary Sawyers, Public Information Officer