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Officials weigh CDC report on Tyson plant; 25 new cases reported
Amarillo Globe-News - 5/19/2020
City officials spoke about the findings in the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they visited the Tyson Food Amarillo Beef Plant in Potter County earlier this month. The report consists of recommendations the plant should consider implementing "to help prevent and mitigate the spread of coronavirus between workers."
The recommendations come after the city saw a jump in positive cases of the virus Friday, as the results from the tests conducted on the site of the Tyson plant by the Texas Military Department started to come in. Casie Stoughton, the public health director for the city of Amarillo, said more than 1,500 employees, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, have tested positive for COVID-19.
On Monday's COVID-19 report card from the city of Amarillo's public health department, Potter and Randall Counties saw an increase of 25 cases from Saturday, bringing the total number to 2,756, of which 2,243 are active.
According to the report card, a total of 2,145 cases have been reported in Potter County, with 1,781 active. There have been 341 recoveries and 23 deaths related to the virus.
In Randall County, 611 total cases of COVID-19 have been reported, with 462 active. There have been 144 recoveries and five deaths related to the virus.
There have been 12,589 conducted COVID-19 tests reported to the public health department, according to the report card, with 2,441 tests still pending.
"We spent some time working over the weekend working with the Tyson team as well as looking at the CDC report," Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said. "This week, we will be spending more time with them, implementing strategies and working on taking those recommendations and putting them into action."
The report stated that Tyson has implemented many approaches at the plan to help the process of reducing and mitigating the spread of the virus between workers, including screening workers for the virus, social distancing and the use of facemasks.
"But with ongoing community transmission," the report reads, "COVID-19 cases among staff will continue to be identified. However, a combination of control measures with ongoing education and training could help reduce transmission in the workplace."
These suggestions include screening individuals before they enter the facility, increasing break areas outdoors for space to social distance, staggering workers along line workstations so they are not working directly across from each other and adding barriers of plexiglass, stainless steel or durable polycarbonate between workstations.
These suggestions also include continuing the practice of issuing disposable facemasks to all workers and visitors and adding hand sanitizer dispensers in multiple locations throughout the plant.
Stoughton said the CDC reports were similar for all the meatpacking plants in the area but had specific information for each individual plant.
Scott Milton, the city's public health authority and an assistant professor at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, said he feels the report the CDC put together for the Tyson plant was good information.
"It was good, constructive recommendations and like I said, I think the Tyson plant has been working hard already to start these things," he said. "We look forward to continuing to work with them to improve these as time goes on."
Even with the recent increase in positives, Milton said the hospital capacity remains consistent, related to the ongoing pandemic.
"It seems that the numbers are slowly decreasing," he said. "Our ventilator capacity remains good, at 50 percent or less and overall, the burden of COVID on our hospital resources has continued to diminish."
But testing will continue to increase in the community, due Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's recent order to test the staff and residents of all nursing homes. Stoughton said this process is starting in full this week with the public health department, the Amarillo Fire Department as well as each of the nursing facilities.
"We should have more information as the week goes on and hopefully, results maybe next week or the week after," she said.
During the conference, Milton also provided an update on the patient who received Remdesivir last week.
"That individual is receiving Remdesivir still today and it appears that that individual has tolerated the medication well and has shown some signs of clinical improvement," he said.
The next COVID-19 news conference will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday. For more information on the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as access to the CDC's recommendations from the Tyson meatpacking plant, visit www.amarilloalerts.com.
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