A pork processing plant in Missouri has confirmed 373 new coronavirus cases among its employees, underscoring the threat meat processing plants pose to their staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Toward the end of April, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) partnered with the City of St. Joseph Health Department, Northwest Health Services and Mosaic Life Care to offer COVID-19 testing to employees at the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph.
By April 30, at least 1,500 employees at the meat processing plant were tested. In an updated press release from the DHSS, more than 2,300 employees were tested by May 1.
Lisa Cox, an official with the DHSS, confirmed to The Hill that there are currently 373 employees and contract workers of Triumph Foods who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We continue to work this weekend contacting these asymptomatic patients and have initiated the process of contact tracing with those determined to be close contacts of our positive cases,” Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS, said via email.
The DHSS asks that anyone who becomes symptomatic notify their health care provider.
St. Joseph sits on the border of Missouri and Kansas, and is located in Buchanan County. The press release stated that the cases among Triumph Foods staff will go toward the county case total, since not all employees reside in Buchanan.
In a video released by Triumph Foods, CEO Mark Campbell said that as of 5:53 pm on May 3, 17 percent of the tested staff tested positive. More than 90 percent of samples of the positive test results were collected from asymptomatic patients.
Campbell confirmed that the company will be deep cleaning its facilities, and employees who are self-isolating at home will receive a care package with face masks, hand sanitizer and other protective health care equipment.
Similar to nursing homes and homeless shelters, meat processing facilities are becoming the next coronavirus hotspot. Multiple outbreaks across the country have caused several plants to close.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that documented more than 4,900 meat processing employees who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Earlier, President Trump issued a mandate under the Defense Production Act that ordered meat processing facilities in the U.S. to remain open to prevent national shortages.
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