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Bear River Health Department speaks out on COVID-19 outbreak in meat processing facility

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — An outbreak of COVID-19 at a meat packing plant in Cache County is responsible for a significant number of the record case count in Utah revealed Friday morning.

The Bear River Health District reported 198 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with most tied to the JBS Meat processing facility in Hyrum. 

District spokesman Joshua Greer says they recently started noticing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

“We had had pretty low numbers…and then last Wednesday we started with a caseload of 10, moved up to the 20s and the 30s and the 40s. As we started doing the investigations, we actually kept going back to a local meat packing plant,” Greer said.    

That’s when they decided to test all 1,300 employees at the meat processing facility.

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of [our COVID-19 cases] are probably linked to this mass testing event,” Greer said. 

However, they expect the COVID-19 case count to go even higher. 

“The numbers, unfortunately, are just starting to come in. So, we actually anticipate seeing higher numbers coming throughout the weekend,” Greer said. 

It’s unclear how the outbreak started and just how many people, including employees’s families and friends, have been exposed to the virus.  

When the Utah Department of Health revealed Friday’s COVID-19 case count, the 439 new cases represented the largest increase the state has reported since the pandemic began.

The Bear River Health District is conducting contact tracing with local, statewide, and federal investigation teams. The federal investigation team is made up of workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Greer says the company is working with them, but the district is also reminding employees to stay home if they are sick, wear a mask, and keep social distancing and washing their hands. 

Tom Hudachko with the Utah Department of Health is not surprised an outbreak happened at a work site.

“We’ve had localized outbreaks all throughout the state since the beginning of this [pandemic]. And what we’ve seen in the past several weeks is more and more of those outbreaks tend to be centered around workplaces,” Hudachko said.  

 

 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States