Washington County sees largest weekly jump in coronavirus cases since pandemic began in March

Steve Lyon

Fry Foods resumed limited operations with 25 percent of the workforce at its Weiser  plant on Monday, one week after voluntarily closing after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.
 Douglas Wold, Fry Foods human resources manager, said the facility was cleaned and the employees who returned to work on Monday all had tested negative for coronavirus.
 On Friday, the nonprofit organization Crush the Curve conducted free drive-thru testing at the Weiser Fry Foods plant for employees and family members. The food-processing facility employs about 250 workers.
 Wold said he reached out to Crush the Curve for help with testing after finding it difficult to secure testing for Weiser employees who were asymptomatic.
 Southwest District Health confirmed last Wednesday that a cluster of coronavirus cases had been identified among Fry Foods employees at the Weiser plant and family members outside of the workplace.
 Wold said the initial number of employees who tested positive last week totaled eight. Following testing the number of cases increased to more than a dozen.
 The employees who tested positive had attended a social gathering the previous weekend or are related to someone who attended, he said.
 When asked last week if all of the cases among Fry Foods employees were a workplace outbreak, officials with Southwest District Health  said there was documented transmission outside of the workplace.
 Southwest District Health staff are continuing the epidemiological investigation and contact tracing. Some of the Fry Foods employees are also part of a family unit that has confirmed cases.
 Epidemiologists have initiated contact investigations to identify the close contacts of the individuals with confirmed COVID-19 and notify them of their potential exposure.  
 Individuals who do not receive a call from the health district have not been named as a close contact and do not have cause for concern.
 Fry Foods was not the only Weiser company to have an employee test positive for the coronavirus.
 A supervisor at Western Timber Products confirmed on Thursday that the facility in Weiser had temporarily closed for cleaning and disinfecting after one employee tested positive for coronavirus.  
 The employee was tested on May 13 and the results came back positive on May 14. The company is working with Southwest District Health to get all 30 employees tested.
 The shipping and receiving operations within the facility stayed open and company officials were hoping to open on Monday. Only employees who were free of symptoms would be allowed to return to work and everybody will wear facemasks.
 On Monday, an official at Appleton Produce confirmed that one employee has tested positive for the coronavirus.
 The onion packing plant is working with Southwest District Health to implement precautions but is not closing.
 Over the past week, Washington County has experienced its largest increase in the number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began in mid-March.
 As of Tuesday morning, the number of coronavirus cases reported by the Southwest District Health stood at 28 confirmed cases and two probable.
 Washington County now has more confirmed cases than Adams (3), Gem (12) and Payette (18) counties.
 For weeks, the county saw no new cases after the first one was reported on April 2 and involved a woman in her 70s who subsequently recovered.

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