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COVID-19 outbreak on a poultry farm affecting refugees in Ingham County



BOSTON TWP. – So far, 28 residents of Ingham County are among those affected by a COVID-19 outbreak on a poultry farm in Ionia County.

The Poultry Ranch in Herbruck, off Interstate 96 between Saranac and Clarksville, reported for the first time an employee who tested positive for the virus two weeks ago.

Since then, the single case has become an epidemic affecting several Michigan counties, according to Linda Vail, health official for Ingham County, who spoke about the epidemic at a press conference on Tuesday.

Herbruck is Michigan’s largest egg producer, according to a recent company press release.

Vail said the facility employs hundreds of workers, including refugees from other countries who have been resettled and live in Ingham County, which has been a factor triggering an awareness campaign to provide “information Health Essentials ”to county refugee communities.

The Poultry Ranch in Herbruck, just south of Saranac, Michigan, is shown. Herbruck’s supplies eggs to more than half the country (Photo: courtesy photo)

Greg Herbruck, president of the company, said in a statement that “the vast majority of these positive cases came from an isolated group of employees on our night owl team.”

“Most were asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms, if any,” added Herbruck. “None of the positive cases sought medical treatment and recovered at home. “

Herbruck did not say how many employees tested positive.

9 in Ionia County, 28 in Ingham County tested positive

Ionia County health official Ken Bowen said his department is still doing contact tracing, but so far there are nine cases of COVID-19 in Ionia County related to poultry farm.

In Ingham County, 28 people linked to Herbruck were tested positive for the new coronavirus on Tuesday afternoon, according to Amanda Darche, chief information officer for the county health department.

This represents about 6.5% of the total number of cases in Ingham County, which reported 429 confirmed virus cases on Tuesday afternoon.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone in Eaton or Clinton counties had tested positive for the Herbruck epidemic. The officials also did not know the total number in all the counties concerned.

Farm Takes “Aggressive Measures”

There has been talk of closing the farm completely as the epidemic has increased in the past two weeks, said Vail.

But Herbruck is supplying eggs to “half the country,” said Bowen, making a complete stop impossible.

The farm has taken “fairly aggressive measures,” he said, including testing workers extensively and closing part of the ranch to prevent the spread of the virus.

“They were very cooperative,” said Bowen.

Related: Falling prices, uncertainty, concern: the impact of coronavirus on farmers in the Lansing area

The construction site, which was closed on Friday, will remain closed “until further notice,” said Herbruck.

“We will continue to work closely with the health department to protect the health of our employees and prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” said its release.

The farm has implemented strict biosecurity and sanitation protocols, provided personal protective equipment to employees, employees working in pods to minimize risk and limits access by outside suppliers, said Herbruck .

Despite the efforts of the company and the health service, Bowen expects to see more cases associated with the Herbruck epidemic “simply because of the contagiousness of the disease”.

Ingham County Focuses On Raising Refugee Awareness

Part of the cases are refugees working on the farm, many of whom live in other counties, said Vail.

It is fair to say that “the majority of refugees who test positive are split between Kent and Ingham counties,” she said.

Refugee Development Center and St. Vincent Catholic Charities partners launched a telephone campaign on Friday to contact all refugee residents in Ingham County and share essential health information, Vail said in his Tuesday briefing .

According to a presentation by Vail, around 20,000 refugees speaking more than 94 languages ​​live in Ingham County.

So far, the phone campaign has reached 400 families, she said.

The campaign aims to get critical information about the health of refugees while being attentive to cultural norms and beliefs, according to Vail’s presentation.

Contact journalist Megan Banta at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ MeganBanta_1.

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