County health officials have identified outbreaks of COVID-19 in 9 industrial facilities in Vernon, including a meat packing plant where more than 150 workers have been infected with the virus, authorities said on Sunday.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the largest outbreak occurred at the Smithfield plant in Block 3000 on Vernon Avenue, where Farmer John meat products are packaged.
Out of 1,837 factory workers, 153 of them have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March, the health ministry said in a statement. Since then, 41 of them have recovered and returned to work. The company offered testing to all workers.
Vernon’s other eight facilities with five or more documented coronavirus infections include: CLW, Via De France Yamazaki Inc., Cal Farms Meat Company, Takaokaya USA Inc., F. Gavina & Sons Inc., Golden West Trading, Overhill Farms and Rose and Shore, officials said.
“Public health supports the city of Vernon on response and mitigation plans and to ensure that close contacts are identified and isolation and quarantine orders are issued,” the statement said.
It was not yet clear whether the positive test results represented a spread of the virus among workers, or simply additional tests in the workforce.
“Although the city of Vernon has few residents, workers positive for COVID-19 could spread the disease to the communities in which they reside,” warned the health department.
“We are closely monitoring outbreaks in institutions in the city of Vernon because many employees reside in adjacent communities southeast of Los Angeles,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “We have assigned a doctor specializing in infectious diseases to work closely with the Vernon director of health on response and mitigation plans, and we are committed to comprehensive contact tracing protocols to ensure that Close contacts are identified and isolation and quarantine orders are issued to keep employees and their families safe. “
Los Angeles County supervisor Hilda Solis said health officials were doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I remind everyone to wear a cloth face mask outside, stay at home as much as possible, and keep at least six feet away from others,” she said. “Together, we can slow the spread of this virus to keep our families and our communities safe.”
In a statement posted on his website, Smithfield said that his employees “are essential to our country’s response to COVID-19”.
“We thank them for keeping food on American tables, and we have taken aggressive measures to protect their health and safety during this pandemic,” said the statement.
All employees involved in food handling wear protective gear on the head, face, hands and body, the company said. Plexiglass barriers have been installed in work areas where social distancing is not possible.
According to Smithfield, improved cleaning and disinfection procedures have been put in place and the temperatures of all employees are checked before entering the facility.
More information, including a city-by-city breakdown of reported cases and a list of screening centers, is available on the website of the L.A. County Public Health Department.
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