HYRUM, UTAH – The Bear River Health Department is getting a better picture on just how big a recent COVID-19 outbreak was at a meat processing plant in Hyrum. Health officials say they have so much work ahead of them that they need extra help from the federal government.
It took several days for workers to test over 1,000 employees from the JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum. Bear River Health Department Spokesman Joshua Greer says the numbers were finalized Monday morning, and they were alarming.
He says, “We tested just over 1,000 people and 287 of those actually came back positive.”
Usually, when someone gets tested for the virus, the results can come back within 24 to 48 hours. However, in this mass-testing event, Greer says it took much longer for health workers to find out just how many people became sick.
“We certainly hope not to see that again. The longer a test result takes to come in, the more chance we have of somebody being out in the community spreading an illness we don’t want spread,” he says.
Greer believes the vast majority of positive COVID-19 cases in their district in recent days can be tied to the outbreak at the JBS meat processing plant. Now, health workers have a massive task in front of them. They have to speak with all of the infected people and trace who they may have had contact with. Greer says they’re just as concerned over the people who may have the virus who don’t work at the plant.
“Certainly, there are still plenty of people out there that weren’t part of that testing. We know this is out there in the community, otherwise, as well,” according to Greer.
The BRHD is calling on the CDC for help in dealing with the aftermath of this outbreak at the meat processing plant. Greer says the federal government is expected to send a team of five epidemiologists and someone to coordinate all the lab work. That team is expected to arrive later this week.
“They’ve also got a technical individual that has experience in industry, especially in meat plants,” he says.
The health department doesn’t have the authority to sanction or reprimand JBS, because the plant falls under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture. Greer says all they can do is make sure people who are infected follow proper safety guidelines and get the treatment they need.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
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.
Resources for more information:
State of Utah: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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