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‘Cluster’ of COVID-19 at Seneca

By Staff | Jul 5, 2020

Seneca Foods is currently dealing with a cluster of COVID-19 cases.

County health officials from Community Health and Human Services of Faribault & Martin Counties are working closely with Seneca Foods, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), United Hospital District (UHD) and Faribault County Emergency Management to respond to a cluster of COVID-19 cases at Seneca Foods.

“We are taking a united approach to this response by identifying people who are ill as quickly as possible and ensuring that people get the medical care they need. Seneca Foods has been designated as a critical local infrastructure and has been a great asset to the community for many years. They have proactively implemented comprehensive screening and safety measures to minimize the spread of this illness,” Tim Langer of Community Health says.

A cluster of COVID-19 cases means that at least three positive cases have been identified in one place. Langer declined to release the exact number of cases at Seneca Foods in Blue Earth.

As of last Tuesday, there have been 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Faribault County since March. Currently there are 20 active cases, and two current hospitalizations, although there have been seven hospitalizations in the county since the pandemic started.

“There have been many of these cases outside of Seneca and not associated with the current situation,” Langer says. “We have been working with Seneca for three months in preparation for handling any cases at the plant.”

Seneca is not shutting down the plant at this time, but is implementing all of the mitigation strategies associated with stopping the spread of the disease.

“They have been adjusting the line, wearing face masks and face shields, and social distancing in break areas,” Langer says. “They have a screening process for all employees, including using an infra-red scanner. A temperature of 99.5 is a trigger and they are taken to a separate area to be tested further.”

They also ask a series of questions and if an employee does not feel well they are to stay home.

“I think everyone needs to do what they can to prevent further cases,” Langer says. “Everyone in the community needs to take this serious.”

Community Health staff at Human Services continue to operate a 24/7 message service for anyone needing assistance with obtaining essential services, such as groceries or supplies. This service is available to help individuals safely isolate and quarantine as they recover from COVID-19. The message service number is 507-238-8434.

Community Health staff’s top priority is the health and safety of the workers, their families and the community. They add it is important that everyone in the community continue to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This means:

1. Social distancing – Staying at least 6 feet from other people when you go out.

2. Avoid crowded spaces and when possible, take advantage of outdoor activities.

3. Wear a facemask when you are unable to social distance.

4. Washing your hands often with soap and water and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

5. Covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.

These are simple public health interventions that we know are effective and can make a difference in how quickly this virus spreads and they are the best ways to slow the spread of disease and protect those most vulnerable in our community. While COVID-19 can be mild for most people, those who are older or have underlying medical conditions can be a higher risk for severe disease. Most people all know someone who is at higher risk a family member, neighbor, coworker so all have to work together to protect them.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, body aches, sore throat or shortness of breath, stay home. Call your local health care provider before going to the clinic or a hospital. United Hospital District (UHD) of Blue Earth may be reached at 507 526-3273. They will give you information on what to do.

Community Health & Human Services of Faribault & Martin Counties provides daily COVID-19 updates on their Facebook page. Statewide COVID-19 information can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health website (www.health.state.mn.us).