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COVID-19 testing finds 18 positive cases at Pilgrim's Pride Moorefield

Photo submitted to WHSV by a Pilgrim's Pride worker
Photo submitted to WHSV by a Pilgrim's Pride worker(WHSV)
Published: May. 15, 2020 at 4:37 PM EDT
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After hundreds of COVID-19 tests were performed in Hardy County earlier this week, the Hardy County Health Department says results have come back.

In Virginia, the exact number of positive results from a particular community testing effort are not released due to the Virginia health department's interpretation of state code regarding patient privacy. However, West Virginia law is different.

According to the Hardy County Health Department, everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 either at Pilgrim's Prime or in the Moorefield community testing earlier this week has been notified of their results and is quarantining at home.

Anyone who was tested but did not heard back, they say, can assume their test was negative.

Community test results will be mailed to individuals' mailing addresses. Pilgrim's Pride test results will go to employee directly from Pilgrim's Pride health services staff or from the health department.

Through the testing, health department employees say they found two positive cases out of 168 tests in the community event and 18 positive cases out of 520 tests at Pilgrim's Pride.

The health department thanked Pilgrim's Pride and the West Virginia National Guard for their cooperation in the testing, saying they "received invaluable help from Pilgrims, the Guard, and citizens of Hardy County."

"This COVID-19 battle is a fight that we can win if we continue to be cautious, take protective measures, and follow the guidance of wearing personal protective equipment, hand-washing, and social distancing until cases go down in our area," health department officials said. "Our hospitals and medical system need our help to keep the case count as low as possible."

About 940 workers are employed by Pilgrim's Pride in Moorefield, so it appears not all employees were tested. The site was declared in need of screening and testing by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice last week.

According to the West Virginia National Guard, they provided 48 Guard members for COVID-19 testing at Pilgrim's Pride, working in conjunction with the Pilgrim’s Pride facility, Hardy County Health Department and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.

The National Guard also helped the Hardy County Health Department with the drive-thru community testing site at the West Virginia National Guard Armory that ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Medical workers and National Guard members collected samples via nasal or throat swabs, with community members remaining in their vehicles to maintain social distancing.

It was for Hardy County residents only, based on proof of residency shown, as well as addresses and phone numbers.

Following the testing, which included 37 National Guard members from Task Force CRE, 10 from Task Force Medical and one Spanish language interpreter from the WVNG’s State Partnership Program office, the National Guard also transported the tests to three labs in the state for expedited processing.

Across the country, meat processing facilities, and poultry plants specifically, have been frequent sites of coronavirus outbreaks, with workers in close quarters at the sites.

In Virginia, how much testing has been conducted at the plants and how many workers have tested positive is unclear, because Virginia code prevents facilities being named as outbreak sites unless they agree to the release of their information.

West Virginia's health departments, however, have publicly identified outbreak locations.

The number of confirmed cases in Hardy County, which has about 14,000 residents, increased from three on April 27 to 25 as of Thursday.

Pilgrim's Pride employees have been screened for symptoms on a daily basis and between shifts, per CDC guidelines for meat processing plants, according to a statement from the Hardy County's Sheriff's Office issued last week.

"We are all working together to ensure the safety of our community and for continuity of the food processing system," the statement read.

For more information about the guidelines followed for testing in Moorefield, you can see them on the CDC website

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WHSV's requests for comment from Pilgrim's Pride have not been returned.

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