By Erwin Seba and Liz Hampton
HOUSTON/DENVER, July 17 (Reuters) - The number of COVID-19 cases among Phillips 66 PSX.N employees is growing, with 57 active cases, the company told employees in an email seen by Reuters on Friday.
Senior Vice President Jay Churchill said 160 employees across the company's sites have been stricken with the virus, with cases rising in Texas, Louisiana, California and Oklahoma. Several employees have been hospitalized, he said in the email sent Thursday.
Phillips 66 was among the first major oil and gas companies to bring employees back to the office, a move that raised worries among its workers. The company on Thursday told employees the majority of its cases were not due to workplace transmission.
"In nearly all of our employee cases, the virus was contracted from household members or contacts outside of the workplace," said Churchill, who is responsible for health, safety, environment and projects at the company.
Phillips 66 said its contract tracing revealed most cases occurred outside the workplace, and the limited instances of possible workplace spread were due to protection practices not being followed.
"The data that we constantly monitor supports our decision that our dedicated employees can and have safely returned to the workplace," the company said in an emailed response.
In early July, sources told Reuters at least 20 people had tested positive for COVID-19 at the company's headquarters in Houston, which has become a COVID-19 hot spot. Texas on Thursday reported 15,000 new cases, according to a Reuters tally, and Houston's hospitals were being overwhelmed by patients.
At that time, employees, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters they feared having to go to work as Texas was seeing a resurgence of the novel coronavirus.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, after resisting measures to stem the tide of the disease, in recent weeks required masks to be worn in public and closed bars across the state. The state has recorded more than 310,000 cases, fourth-most in the United States, according to a Reuters tally.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba and Liz Hampton; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Richard Chang)
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