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More Abbyland employees test positive for COVID

A total of nine Abbyland Foods employees, including one at the pork plant in Curtiss, have tested positive for COVID- 19 as of last Thursday, according to county health officials.

A June 11 joint press release from the Marathon and Clark county health departments, along with Abbyland Foods, said there were now eight cases at the plant in Abbotsford — an increase of five since three cases were first made public in a May 27 press release.

Of the eight who tested positive, five of them have recovered and three are still considered active.

In a separate press release, the Clark County Health Department announced that one employee at the Abbyland Pork Pack Plant in Curtiss had also tested positive and was isolated at home.

“All close contacts of the ill individual have been identified and contacted by their local health department,” the release said.

The Marshfield News Herald reported on Saturday that about 60 employees were found to have been in close contact with those who tested positive, but health officials in both counties said they did not know where that number came from.

Judy Burrows, public information officers for the Marathon County Health Department, said her department did not release any information about contact tracing of Abbyland employees, but she said 60 would not be out of the ordinary.

“It’s not uncommon for one case to have anywhere between 10 and 30 contacts, just with family, friends and people you work with,” she said.

When asked about the likelihood of those employees spreading COVID-19 to other businesses in the Abbotsford or Colby, Burrows said this is why contact tracing is so important.

With each case positive case, she said public health employees start with those who live with the infected individual — families and roommates — and then branch out to where those people work and spend their time.

Burrows said they will ask patients how much time they spend with various people in their lives, and at what proximity, to gauge the risk of those people also being infected. She used her and her coworkers at the county health department as an example of a low-risk situation.

“We’re in the same building every day, but we’re so far apart, if I had COVID, they wouldn’t be counted as a close contact because I don’t see them,” she said.

On Monday, the Clark County Health Department announced that one of the 52 county residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 spent time at an Abbotsford grocery store, La Tropicana, over this past weekend, June 12-14.

“If you visited the establishment on the dates mentioned above, self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the date you were at the establishment,” the press release. “If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your medical provider to be tested.”

Brittany Mews, Clark County’s health officer, said she could also not confirm that 60 Abbyland employees had been in close contact with those who tested positive for the virus.

If someone is determined to have been in close contact with an infected person — within six feet of that person for 15 or more minutes — that normally results in a mandatory quarantine order, she said.

Mews said over 100 Clark County residents have been quarantined since the start of the outbreak, but she did not provide a breakdown of how many of those were from Abbyland.

So far, only one other place of employment in the area, Colonial Center in Colby, has been subject to what’s called a “facility- wise public health investigation.” Because it is a longterm care facility, all it took was one positive case, on May 27, to trigger the investigation.

For other places of employment, two or more positive cases trigger an investigation, Mews said. “We have not had two lab-confirmed (cases) in any other business in the Colby- Abby area,” she said.

Health officials in both counties continue to recommend taking precautions, such as wearing masks, and are discouraging large gatherings.

“The virus is going to go wherever it can. It doesn’t care what brought you together,” Burrows said. “Anything from a graduation party to a funeral, it doesn’t care. It’s a virus. It will take the opportunity to find a new host and a new person to make sick.”