CORONAVIRUS UTAH

State Health Officials Concerned About Spike In COVID-19 Cases

Jun 7, 2020, 6:24 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2022, 6:43 pm

HYRUM, Utah — State health officials said they are concerned after seeing a recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases, many of which have been linked to an outbreak at a meat packing plant in Northern Utah.

The Utah Department of Health reported another day of above-average increases in cases Sunday.

“We had been zeros — one or two cases here or there — we spiked up to 10, then 20, then 40,” said Joshua Greer, public information officer for the Bear River Health Department.

It was about a week and a half ago that Greer said officials saw a spike in COVID-19 positive cases, now linked to an outbreak in the meat processing industry.

“The Utah Department of Health did some mass testing at this industry,” he said.

They also got help from the Utah National Guard.

Results started coming back Thursday and Friday.

“We were going up to almost 200 on Friday and Saturday, and so we definitely, definitely had an impact,” said Greer.

The case count at the Bear River Health Department — which includes Box, Elder, Cache, and Rich County — currently stands at 782 cases, with 24 new cases and 15 hospitalizations announced Sunday.

Health officials said the CDC is sending in a team this week.

“For the next 6 weeks and actually help us with our EPI investigations, and technical support that can reach out to businesses, as well as a lab type person that might be able to help with more testing,” said Greer. 

Officials said they’ve been working with the meat packing plant located in Hyrum.

KSL received a statement from JBS USA and Pilgrim’s that said they’re working with local health officials and following CDC and OSHA guidance around social distancing, saying they’ve implemented several safety measures like temperature checks, PPE, and installing dividers in the production floor.

“We really cooperate with the business and hope that they’ll make good choices,” said Greer.

As of right now, the plans are for the plant to remain open following an executive order to keep essential businesses going

Health officials recommended that any industry worker showing symptoms should stay home.

“We absolutely depend on the community,” said Greer. “Each individual has to do their part.”

Greer said another reason for the quick spread of the virus is due to several industry workers living in multi-generational homes, which makes social distancing harder. They’re also facing some language barriers in communication.

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