COVID-19 testing underway for Pilgrim's Pride workers in Moorefield

Photo submitted to WHSV by a Pilgrim's Pride worker
Photo submitted to WHSV by a Pilgrim's Pride worker(WHSV)
Published: May. 11, 2020 at 1:25 PM EDT
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Starting on Monday, the West Virginia National Guard is in Moorefield to assist in conducting coronavirus tests at a poultry processing plant.

The Hardy County Sheriff's Office told WHSV last week that testing will be offered for the 940 workers at the Pilgrim's Pride plant on every shift after West Virginia Governor Jim Justice's office declared the poultry plant a site that requires screening and testing of all plant workers.

At this point, health officials have not disclosed whether there are any confirmed virus cases at the plant, similar to the situation at various plants in the Shenandoah Valley.

has confirmed that multiple employees there have tested positive at their site, though managers said they don't believe the virus was transmitted at the poultry plant, and no exact number was provided. Cargill, in Dayton,

, but also never provided an exact number of cases at the site.

Earlier in the pandemic,

amid the pandemic, and protests on behalf of poultry workers have happened at a variety of facilities over the past month.

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 have more publicly identified outbreak locations than in Virginia.

The number of confirmed cases in Hardy County, which has about 14,000 residents,

.

But whether that increase is directly tied to Pilgrim's Pride has not been specified.

Employees will be screened for symptoms on a daily basis and between shifts, per CDC guidelines for meat processing plants, according to the 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.

The assist the West Virginia health department and the Hardy County Health Department, the West Virginia National Guard arrived at the plant to operate in a medical support role to test the large number of employees there.

The National Guard is also set to help Hardy County Health Department officials with contact tracing for anyone with a confirmed case and with recommendations for self-isolation for affected employees.

"We appreciate the ongoing cooperation of Pilgrim's Pride and the many folks in our community that work in the processing plant. We have a shared goal of keeping everyone healthy and ensuring the ongoing safe operation of our food processing facilities," said William Ours, administrator of the Hardy County Health Department.

Gov. Jim Justice requested the tests at the Moorefield plant.

"We’re going to do some extensive testing there and try to nip that in the bud and stop it as fast as we possibly can in order to be able to keep that plant moving," Justice said Friday.

However, several people connected to the plant have told WHSV that the testing has been set up in a way that it is optional, rather than mandatory, for workers.

At least 54 people in the state have died from the virus and around 1,360 have tested positive, according to health data.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks.

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

.

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