Coronavirus outbreak reported at Mission Foods plant in Pueblo County

Coronavirus
FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.(NIAID-RML via AP)

FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.(NIAID-RML via AP)

PUEBLO, Colo. — Several employees at the Mission Foods plant in Pueblo County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment.

The county health department said two employees tested positive for the virus, which prompted several others to get tested at the Pueblo community drive-thru testing site. Three of them tested positive, bringing the total to five, according to the health department.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 7, which represents workers at the plant, said six plant workers have tested positive for the virus. One had tested positive by May 21, a second tested positive by May 22, two more tested positive by May 25, and two more tested positive by Tuesday, according to the union.

The Colorado state health department defines an “outbreak” as two or more confirmed coronavirus cases in a single facility or non-household group within two weeks.

The health department said based on the contact investigation they conducted, they do not think any of the cases are related.

“All indications are that those illnesses were contracted in the community and not in the workplace,” Mission Foods said in a statement.

Mission Foods temporarily shut down the facility to sanitize and disinfect the building, according to the health department. The facility has since reopened, with employees wearing masks and gloves and adhering to social distancing guidelines, according to the health department.

“Since early March, Mission Foods has acted decisively to protect the health and safety of employees across the company, including those at our Pueblo facility,” Mission Foods said in the statement. “Steps range from mandatory masks and social distancing to enhanced sanitization and increased visitor screening. Also, when it comes to monitoring personal health at our facilities, every employee is required to conduct a self-check prior to leaving home, and temperatures and symptoms are checked again once an employee arrives at work. We also perform temperature checks mid-shift. If anyone believes they are sick, we expect them to stay home until they are better and are provided two weeks of paid leave to do so.”

Mission Foods is the first non-healthcare-related facility in Pueblo County to have a coronavirus outbreak. Outbreaks were previously reported at University Park Care Center, Brookdale El Camino, and Columbine Chateau. The outbreak at Brookdale El Camino is considered to be over, since they passed 28 days with no new illnesses in the facility.

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