The City of Cudahy Health Department on Wednesday said that 503 people were tested for COVID-19 from April 24 to 28 as part of an investigation of the coronavirus outbreak at the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking plant.
The dry sausage and bacon plant is owned by Smithfield Foods Inc., which agreed to acquire Patrick Cudahy Inc. in 1984. Smithfield earlier this month shut down the Cudahy plant temporarily saying a “small number” of employees there had tested positive for COVID-19. Hundreds of employees at the company’s plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota have tested positive for the virus.
The Cudahy Health Department today declined to disclose how many people at the Smithfield plant in Cudahy have tested positive for COVID-19, but said the city has 33 positive cases of the coronavirus. The department said it is investing cases of COVID-19 linked to Smithfield Foods. Fox 6 reported earlier this month that there were 28 COVID-19 cases from the Smithfield plant in Cudahy.
The city is partnering with the state to investigate the outbreak at the Smithfield plant and the Wisconsin National Guard provided assistance for the testing.
“This is an ongoing investigation and the exact number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 is not yet known,” said Cudahy health officer Katie Lepak in a news release. “Confirmed cases are reported to the health department in the community where they live. Local health departments are following up with employees and their contacts to stop the spread of the illness in the community.”
Lepak could not be reached for additional comment.
Several meatpacking facilities in the United States have been sites of COVID-19 outbreaks, including JBS Packerland and American Foods Group plants in Green Bay. According to the New York Times, Green Bay has the second-highest daily growth rate of coronavirus cases in the country.
Concerned about the nation’s meat supply chain, President Donald Trump this week signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act compelling meatpacking plans to remain in operation. Smithfield Foods issued an announcement expressing support for that move.
“The company is evaluating next steps to open its currently shuttered facilities and will make announcements when it is ready to resume operations in each location,” Smithfield Foods said in a news release. A spokesperson for the company could not immediately to reached for comment.
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