The only positive aspect of rightwing discrimination is that it’s readily identifiable. Leftwing discrimination can be more stealthy, and Oregon’s government seems to be awash in it.

I’ve complained previously about the reflexive secrecy of Oregon’s state government and how it is bad for its citizens. I was heartened when Governor Kate Brown said she’d fix it:

State and local health professionals are working around the clock to identify, treat, and contain each case of this disease. My commitment to Oregonians is that our state agencies will be as accurate, transparent, and swift as possible in conveying the information we have to the pubic especially when new cases of coronavirus are identified.

Gov. Kate Brown, May 1, 2020

But yesterday we got this:

The Oregon Health Authority announced a coronavirus outbreak Wednesday that has infected dozens of people in the Portland metro area but the agency declined to immediately release details about the business involved.

Mysterious coronavirus outbreak at unnamed business comes as Multnomah, Washington counties seek to reopen, OregonLive.com, 27 May 2020.

For 24 hours we were left to speculate. Was it Fred Meyer? Another retailer with public customers? A hospital system? Maybe a restaurant chain doing takeout? Given no information, all the public could do was wonder, speculate, and grow fearful.

Props to Willamette Week for first breaking the story today that it’s Townsend Farms in Fairview and Cornelius. We can stop wondering where the outbreak might be and how we might protect ourselves and focus now on what the hell is wrong with Oregon’s state government. (By the way, if you follow on Twitter any of the various reporters tracking this story, you will find that they are pissed. They might be a little tired of Oregon’s stonewalling and lack of transparency.)

I don’t know what makes the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) so disinclined to share public health information that is clearly, obviously, something that they should disseminate. No one—and I mean no one—is better served by keeping things like this a secret. In fact, we’re harmed by it. So why do it? 

Following on the heels of the outbreaks in Gervais and Woodburn that the OHA also was slow and reluctant to report, it’s hard not to think that there’s an ethnic element to the story. In all cases, Hispanic or Latino populations are inordinately impacted. In fact, Oregon has an enormous COVID-19 outbreak within these communities. The situation involving Townsend Farms, where the workers are primarily Hispanic, is just the latest. 

How bad is it? Pretty bad. Here’s today’s chart from the OHA web site:

Screen Shot 2020 05 28 at 3 26 31 PM

In case you’re confused by the Race/Ethnicity split, well, so are many respondents. It might be technically incorrect, but most Hispanics or Latinos use those terms for race. The OHA explains in a caveat below the charts:

During the course of the case investigation, people are asked to self-report their race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, country of origin, or ancestry. Many people who consider themselves Hispanic or Latinx, which is an ethnicity, will use one of these or an equivalent term to describe their race, which then gets categorized as “Other” race. Currently, 97.4% of case-patients shown as “Other” race above reported that they are Hispanic or Latinx. 

Ignoring for the moment that virtually no one outside the progressive left uses the politically correct “Latinx” for Latino/Latina (and certainly not Latinos themselves), the crucial bit coming out of the chart is then made obvious: The Hispanic/Latino communities (aka “Other”) in Oregon are facing a huge COVID-19 outbreak. 

This should be enormous, front page news. Hispanics/Latinos are 11.7% of Oregon’s population and they have more than 50% of the cases. Why is the OHA not shouting this from the rooftops? How can they be, in fact, doing the very opposite?

I’ve reluctantly concluded that the answer is discrimination. I want to be very clear: I don’t mean the vile rightwing, KKK, “we hate minorities” discrimination. I don’t see any of that here, and I certainly don’t think a hatred of minorities motivates the secrecy and silence of the OHA. 

Instead, I think it is the discrimination of the left. It’s a paternalistic, condescending, “we know better” discrimination (that also spawns terms like Latinx, a word that Latinos themselves don’t use as a self-descriptor). I think in fact that the OHA believes itself to be protecting Oregon’s Hispanic/Latino communities from rightwing bigots who might target them or blame them for spreading the virus. I mean it’s either this, or the OHA is mind-bendingly bad at its job. 

Or, of course, it could be both. 

Late last night the OHA had an announcement: 

State officials will now report all coronavirus outbreaks at workplaces with at least five infections, Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, announced in a news release issued at 8:34 p.m.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demands that we all rethink how we accomplish necessary tasks that are vital to our roles,” Allen said. “OHA believes a consistent, transparent statewide approach to reporting COVID-19 cases in workplaces will give Oregonians more information to help people avoid the risks of COVID-19 infections. We want to ensure employers, workers and customers know the same criteria will apply, no matter where they work or what businesses they support, everywhere in Oregon.”

Allen’s statement came four hours after after The Oregonian/OregonLive questioned Gov. Kate Brown’s office about why the initial outbreak, and others, have not been publicly reported by the state. The newsroom pointed to Los Angeles County, in California, which discloses workplace coronavirus outbreaks of at least five infections.

Asked why Brown wasn’t championing such disclosure, what direction she would provide to state or local county health departments, and whether she felt it was appropriate for large outbreaks to go publicly unreported, a spokesman for Brown’s office demurred.

If you’ve ever doubted the importance of the Fourth Estate, this should put it to rest. Time and again, the media is what has prompted Brown to act. It’s to her credit that she listens to criticism and makes changes, but it’s madding that she’s effectively late to the game on everything. 

As for the OHA, well, they need to go a long way to win back the public’s trust. I’m not optimistic.