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UPDATED: 50 workers test positive for coronavirus at Jerome food plant

The Department of Health reports new cases of COVID-19 in Bay County, bringing the total to 83. (MGN)
The Department of Health reports new cases of COVID-19 in Bay County, bringing the total to 83. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: May. 22, 2020 at 3:59 PM MDT
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UPDATE: 5:45 pm

John MacArthur, the Managing Director, for Rite Stuff Foods released the following statement to KMVT.

“Keeping our employees safe is vitally important to Rite Stuff Foods. We’ve taken extra measures in our facility to limit our employees’ risk exposure to COVID-19 while they are on the job, but even with such measures in place, late last week, the company was informed by the public health district that more than 10 employees had become ill. As a result, Rite Stuff Foods determined that identifying cases would help protect employees and limit spread, so we employed a mass testing effort and tested all 173 employees at the facility. We learned that there have been a total of 50 employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 since we became aware of reported cases in the facility. Rite Stuff Foods is working with employees on contact tracing, will be operating with limited shifts and will continue to increase sanitizing and safety measures. It is the company’s commitment to continue to listen to our employees and adapt quickly and provide safe working conditions.”

The results represents an effort of increased testing and marks one of the largest jumps the region has seen in several weeks.

As cluster testing increases in the region, SCPHD expects to see a focus on employees of food processing plants.

ORIGINAL STORY

The Idaho Statesman is reporting that at least 50 workers of Rite Stuff Foods, a food processing plant located in Jerome, have tested positive for coronavirus.

According to its

the company is known for being the largest manufacturer of premier twice baked potatoes in the United States.

Meanwhile, South Central Public Health District spokeswoman Brianna Bodily can confirm at least 30 have tested positive within one cluster of Jerome County.

The results represents an effort of increased testing and marks one of the largest jumps the region has seen in several weeks.

"Some organizations are now offering the opportunity for companies with a cluster of cases to test their entire employee base. We welcome the opportunity to get a better picture of the spread of this virus in our region,” said Melody Bowyer, South Central Public Health District (SCPHD) Director.

As cluster testing increases in the region, SCPHD expects to see a focus on employees of food processing plants.

"We are in an area where agriculture is the dominant industry and food processing plants are a huge part of that,” said Logan Hudson, SCPHD Public Health Division Administrator. “The nature of some of these jobs require people to work closely together, making social distancing difficult. Respiratory viruses, like COVID-19, are in the perfect environment to spread rapidly.”

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