Sizable number of COVID-19 cases reported at Johnsonville
Jackson County saw its total number of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases more than double on Friday, May 22 as a result of positive cases identified after recent testing of employees at the Johnsonville Holton plant, Jackson County Health Officer Angela Reith said.
The day before, the Jackson County Health Department listed a total of 36 county residents who had tested positive for COVID-19, including one hospitalization and seven recoveries.
On Friday, the total of COVID-19 cases jumped to 84 — an increase of 48 cases — while three more county residents who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 were newly listed as recovered, totaling 10.
The sizable increase was reported the same day that Kansas moved into “Phase 2” of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan for reopening the state’s economy after easing restrictions on a statewide “stay-at-home” order in place since mid-March.
Reith said her office had been notified of a “possible cluster” of COVID-19 cases at the Johnsonville Holton plant, and after five plant employees tested positive for COVID-19, Johnsonville officials temporarily closed the plant, starting on Wednesday, May 13, to allow employees to recover and to work with Reith’s office to test other employees.
This past week, the health department worked with Johnsonville officials, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas National Guard’s Joint Task Force to conduct COVID-19 testing on Johnsonville employees, identifying 46 more Jackson County residents who work at the plant and had tested positive for the disease, Reith said.
Those who tested positive “were immediately notified of the need to isolate at home,” Reith said. KDHE investigators and contact tracers will assist in assuring that all contacts of infected persons are placed into quarantine, she added.
“Our office will continue to work closely with the Johnsonville facility to ensure that their employees receive education regarding this virus, as well as abide by quarantine and isolation requirements,” she said.
Johnsonville Foods public relations manager Stephanie Dlugopolski on Friday confirmed Reith’s statement, which also included that Johnsonville has not set a date for reopening the plant “and will not commit to a day until their employees recover.”
Reith said the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the county underscored the need to continue safe health practices — such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask in public and avoiding gatherings of more than 15 people — particularly for those at increased risk of contracting the disease or developing complications if they are infected.
“We ask those people at increased risk to remain at home except for essential functions,” she said. “If you are ill, please remain at home and contact your doctor. Let us all work together to do our part to prevent the spread of this virus further in our county.”
KDHE on Friday reported that a total of 8,958 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, which has a population of 2.913 million, had been identified, including 787 hospitalizations and 185 deaths at various locations across the state, while a total of 67,476 negative tests were reported. Ford County in western Kansas had the highest number of COVID-19 cases with 1,558, followed by Finney County with 1,367 and Wyandotte County with 1,269.