By Shereen Siewert
Local health officials say eight employees from Abbyland Foods, including three from Marathon County have tested positive for COVID-19 since May 22.
Five employees have since recovered, leaving three active cases.
Abbyland Foods employs about 950 workers in three facilities located in Marathon and Clark County.
Brittany Mews, Health Officer for the Clark County Health Department, said health officials in both counties are working closely with Abbyland leadership and employees to further reduce the spread of the virus. The organization is using preventative measures to help limit employee exposure.
As of Thursday, Clark County, which has roughly 34,700 residents, is reporting 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four deaths. Marathon County, with a population of about 135,700, is reporting 70 confirmed cases, 44 recoveries and one death. Marathon County is reporting that 4,371 negative tests have been processed as of June 11.
The meatpacking industry continues to be especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. POLITICO reported earlier this month that at figures from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union reveal at least 44 meatpacking workers have died from the virus and more than 3,000 have tested positive. About 30 plants have closed in the past two months, affecting more than 45,000 workers.
To date, the agency responsible for worker safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has issued just one citation related to the pandemic, though the agency has received more than 4,400 COVID-19-related safety complaints.
Todd Jelinski, safety director for Abbyland Foods, said the situation continues to have not only an employee health and household impact, but an economic impact on the business and the community as a whole.
“We need to continue working together to overcome these challenges,” added Jelinski.
Local health departments do not release the names of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to protect their privacy. Close contacts have been notified, and persons with symptoms have been isolated. Anyone who has had close contact with a confirmed positive case is urged reach out to local health department officials.