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3 employees of Abbyland Foods test positive for COVID-19; Close contacts isolated at home

Abbyland Foods (WSAW FILE - 2018)
Abbyland Foods (WSAW FILE - 2018)(WSAW)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 12:34 PM CDT
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The Clark County Health Department is reporting three employees of Abbyland Foods Inc. have tested positive for COVID-19.

"Clark and Marathon County Health Departments are working with Abbyland leadership and staff to conduct an investigation to track, trace, and contain the virus,” stated Brittany Mews, Clark County Health Officer. “Abbyland Foods is located in both counties. We are all working together to ensure the facility, staff, residents, and their family members, are taking steps to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Abbyland employs many in the Hispanic community, which could lead to added challenges with contact tracing. The Marathon County Health Department says they currently have bilingual interpreters but "would love to have more bilingual people join the team," Judy Burrows noted in an interview with NewsChannel 7. Clark County Health Department did not yet respond to a similar request about bilingual contact tracers.

"We certainly have learned--and is laid bare by this pandemic--is the health disparities that are really able to be seen in spades because of this pandemic," Wisconsin DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm noted on a press conference call Wednesday. She said an initial round of hiring for contact tracers was comprised of more than 25% percent Spanish speakers, and others had been hired in subsequent hiring rounds.

Abbyland employs about 1,000 people across its various departments, according to its website, but its unclear how many people work at the Abbotsford food plant where the cases were reported.

“Abbyland has implemented CDC recommended prevention guidelines such as employees wearing masks, reconfigured workspaces, staggered breaks and lunches to limit employee contact and promote social distancing, and increased sanitization in high traffic areas,” stated Todd Jelinski, Safety Director of Abbyland Foods Inc.

“COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic people, meaning people who are not experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath,” stated Judy Burrows, Public Information Officer for Marathon County. “Everyone can do their part to control the spread by practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and washing their hands.”

Anyone who has been in contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 is encouraged to contact their local health department and self-quarantine out of precaution.

Close contacts at Abbyland Meats Inc. and immediate family members have been notified, according to the press release, and anyone with symptoms has been isolated.

The outbreak is the latest in a list of outbreaks at meat and food processing plants across Wisconsin, with

in Brown County. A

found 16 plants infected as of early May.

The Wisconsin DHS tracks investigations of outbreaks at facilities including factories and processing facilities by county on its website, but does not name the facilities.

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