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Five COVID-19 clusters confirmed in Lyon Co., including Emporia Tyson plant

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Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 11:29 AM CDT
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Thirty-four employees at the Tyson plant in Emporia have contracted the coronavirus, Lyon Co. health officer Renee Hively told 13 NEWS Monday.

"We started seeing one, we anticipated there'd be another one, and then when that number started going up, it was like, yeah, we definitely have a cluster here," Hively said.

The number of confirmed cases at the plant jumped ten after additional testing Monday afternoon.

Lyon County reported 77 positive cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — a rise in 30 since Thursday. Twenty-one "probable positive" cases were also reported Sunday, along with the county's first confirmed death due to the virus.

Tyson is among five clusters in Lyon County. The others are at Simmons Pet Food with 13 cases, four cases each at Hostess and Detroit Diesel, and another seven at a church: Heritage Pentacostal.

Lyon is one of four counties in the state Governor Laura Kelly announced to receive expanded rapid testing.

"Agriculture is a facet of our state's most critical infrastructure," Kelly said. "Kansas doesn't just feed the state, we feed the world. This is particularly true of our frontline workers in meatpacking plants across the state who process a significant portion of the nation's supply."

In response to the cluster, employees are taking their temperatures and monitoring any possible symptoms of the virus.

"The nursing staff there will screen anybody who calls in sick, and if they meet the criteria, then they'll fill out a testing authorization form and that form will come over to us," Hively said.

Hively said the health department will then contact those employees, who will receive same-day rapid testing.

"We'll have test results back in 15 minutes," Hively said. "That gives us quick-time, say yes, we need to get you isolated, and we can start that contact investigation and get anybody else that's been in contact with them out and quarantined."

When asked if the plant was safe to stay open, Hively said she cannot provide an answer until the health department visits the site. They plan to do so this week.

"I really can't answer that, I haven't been out there to attest to that," she said.

She adds Tyson products are still safe to consume.

"There is no research that shows that you can spread COVID disease through food, by eating a food. " Hively said.

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