Loudon County Mayor Rollen Bradshaw announced Sunday that 57 employees of a food processing facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
Bradshaw said 57 of the nearly 300 employees at a Monterey Mushroom facility in Loudon County tested positive for the virus.
“Yes, that is a high number but we’ve known the entire time that active case numbers were not a true reflection of total numbers in the County. I was also told that an overwhelming majority, if not all, were asymptomatic. This is a drastic jump in confirmed cases but it does not change what we should be doing to protect ourselves,” he said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Bradshaw claimed that residents can’t “catch the virus from the mushrooms,” but urged customers to wash their hands “after removing them from the package.”
“The company is going above and beyond to reduce or eliminate exposure at the plant and folks who tested positive have been made aware and given instructions. There is still no reason to panic, hoard, or give up. We knew the virus was here and that this could happen. Now that it has happened we need to work our way through it,” he added.
The 57 cases account for 60 percent of Loudon County’s 94 total cases. Food processing plants across the country, especially meatpacking plants, have seen large outbreaks of the coronavirus. The Smithfield Foods pork processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has seen 1,095 workers test positive, while the JBS USA pork production facility in Worthington, Minnesota now has 654 cases.
The New York Times identified more than 100 food processing facilities across the country that have coronavirus outbreaks. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said approximately 4,913 workers at 115 meat and poultry processing facilities have tested positive nationally.
“Factors potentially affecting risk for infection include difficulties with workplace physical distancing and hygiene and crowded living and transportation conditions,” said the report.
The Monterey Mushroom facility doesn’t plan to close, but all employees who have tested positive will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, WBIR reported. President Donald Trump labeled meatpacking plants as critical infrastructure in an April executive order in an effort to avoid a potential meat shortage.
The Trousdale Turner Correctional Center remains the largest coronavirus cluster in Tennessee and is the third largest identified outbreak in the U.S. with more than 1,300 cases.
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