Barron County reports COVID-19 outbreak at food processing plant; 150 new cases in last 2 weeks


Natalie Brophy, Appleton Post-Crescent (WI)

Jul 29, 2020


BARRON Barron County health officials are reporting a spike in COVID-19 cases, including an outbreak at a food processing plant.


The Barron County Health Department said Wednesday in a Facebook post that it is working with Seneca Foods in Cumberland to respond to a "cluster" of positive COVID-19 cases. Seneca Foods is a fruit and vegetable processing plant. Health officials did not specify how many cases were tied to the plant, but reported 73 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.


In the last two weeks, Barron County has seen 150 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the county's total to 206 as of Wednesday. Barron County's population is around 45,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Health Officer Laura Sauve said the outbreak at Seneca Foods is not the sole cause of the recent increase in cases in Barron County. Many of the new cases are due to travel and gatherings, she said, and many of the cases are in the Rice Lake and Cumberland areas.


Seneca Foods is not the first food processing facility in Wisconsin to be the center of a COVID-19 outbreak. Similar plants were hotspots for COVID-19 early on in the coronavirus pandemic.


Hundreds of workers at two meat processing plants in Green Bay JBS Packerland and American Foods Group tested positive for COVID-19. In southern Wisconsin, more than 100 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at the Birds Eye processing plant in Darien. Additional outbreaks happened at TNT Crust in Green Bay, Salm Partners in Denmark and the Patrick Cudahy/Smithfield Foods plant in Cudahy, among others.


Suave said Seneca Foods "did a good job" following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to try to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, including extensive testing using the Wisconsin National Guard and area health care providers, communication and training sessions with the employees, daily temperature checks, monitoring employees for symptoms, requiring masks or face coverings, implementing social distancing measures and designating isolation facilities...