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Over 20 Idaho beef plant workers sickened with coronavirus

| May 9, 2020 2:40 PM

KUNA (AP) — At least 23 employees working at a beef processing plant near Boise, Idaho, have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials confirmed Saturday.

One additional employee is presumed to have the virus, and two other contract employees have tested positive, Central District Health spokesperson Christine Myron told the Idaho Statesman.

The majority of the employees have recovered, Myron said. Some of the employees who tested positive do not live in the Central District Health area, which serves Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties.

Steve Cherry, CS Beef Packers plant manager, said in a statement that plant employees working in close proximity may have been exposed to the virus. Employees who are ill will remain at home until officials confirm they are recovered, Cherry said. Employees will be compensated for time away from work, he said.

“Our plant operations will continue as normal. We are especially focused upon enhanced cleaning and sanitation programs in all areas of the plant,” Cherry said.

Cherry said all employees have been provided masks, face shields and outside seating options to allow for social distancing during breaks. The plant is also conducting temperature and health screenings of all employees reporting for work, he said.

Two other food processing companies within the same district have reported clusters of illnesses among employees. Myron said there are no ongoing clusters or concerns within those two facilities.

Thousands of workers in meatpacking plants and food processing companies across the country have contracted the coronavirus. Last week, President Donald Trump ordered the country’s meatpacking plants to remain open to protect the country’s food supply.

More than 2,200 people in Idaho have tested positive for the virus and at least 67 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.