The COVID-19 outbreak at a Hyrum meat packing plant is “resolving,” the CDC says. Their team of experts is preparing to leave Wednesday.
The team, under the direction of Dr. Andrew Boyd, arrived nearly three weeks ago to study and manage the high volume of cases coming from the JBS facility.
“They’ve been very open and committed and welcoming of CDC and our suggestions,” Boyd said of the meat packing site.
Boyd’s comments come after a month that saw protests by workers not convinced they could go to work safely.
“Certainly I can understand people are concerned,” Boyd said. “People may be worried or even afraid about getting the coronavirus.”
Still, he says safety protocols in place make a difference.
“These guidances may not prevent every case, but they go a long way toward decreasing transmission,” Boyd said.
Meat packing plants continue to present major challenges in America and around the world. Employees are often working in close proximity for extended periods of time.
“This is going to be an ongoing discussion, an ongoing battle, shall we say, to protect people working in meat packing plants, protect employees, protect the food supply and to move forward,” Boyd said.
Cache County will need to move forward cautiously. The virus has spread a lot.
Boyd echoed the many urgent pleas from public and private sector health officials in Utah for people to wear face masks when out in public and continue the months-long social distancing campaign to limit spread. If you’re sick, do not go to work, he said.
“It really has moved on, shall we say, from the plant itself,” Boyd said.
The Bear River Health Department reports it has had a lot of conversation with other businesses in the area as they look to prevent another outbreak.
To be safe, a Box Elder County food processor had a mass testing event about a week ago. So far, results show just a handful of cases, health officials said.
The CDC team has conducted extensive surveys of the workers in an effort to identify how and where disease transmission occurred. The team has not ruled out significant early spread outside of the work environment — such as in homes, social gatherings, and employee carpools.
Boyd says meat processed inside the facility is safe to eat — that USDA safety protocols for food will safeguard the product from any disease. The people in the plants, however, should remain vigilant.
“The employees there remain vulnerable to a repeat COVID-19 outbreak because the risk factors continue to be there even as we try to mitigate them,” he said. “It’s possible it could enter again.”
Boyd said the plant is requiring face coverings, has separated work stations and staggered break times to limit congregation, among other measures.
Boyd’s team will complete its final analysis of the outbreak in the coming weeks.