CUDAHY -- New numbers have just been released on cases of coronavirus and the Patrick Cudahy plant.
The Cudahy Health Department now says a total of 85 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Patrick Cudahy plant. That is three times the number of cases FOX6 News reported back on April 15 -- when Smithfield Foods announced a two-week closure to clean and disinfect the plant.
Health officials say some of that increase can be attributed to free testing offered to more than 500 Patrick Cudahy employees over the past week. The free tests resulted in 22 new cases of COVID-19 being identified. That is on top of the 28 cases FOX6 News reported on April 15 -- and another 35 cases that health officials have been able to tie to this facility through follow-up and evaluation of state health data. The 85 positive cases represent about 8 percent of the workforce at the Smithfield plant.
In a news release issued on Friday afternoon, May 1, Cudahy Health Officer Katie Lepak said the following:
"Testing like this is prioritized from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and really what we’re trying to do is stop further spread of outbreaks of COVID-19. Having testing of employees regardless of symptoms will help us quantify and reduce further spread of COVID-19 in both the staff and within the community. Testing also allows us to reach out to individuals who are positive to make sure they know how to protect themselves and their families, and know when to seek medical care. We appreciate Smithfield and the Union for taking these steps to protect the health of their employees. Their cooperation with the public health investigation and initiative to install safety measures and temporarily close the plant helped to contain the spread of this virus, and likely prevented this from turning into a larger outbreak."