National Guard to test workers at Birds Eye plant in Darien; roughly 100 diagnosed with COVID-19

DARIEN -- The Wisconsin National Guard will conduct COVID-19 testing at the Birds Eye plant in Darien, a spokesman with the Walworth County Department of Health & Human Services. This, after Conagra Foods officials said operations were suspended at the facility as of April 17, with approximately 100 employees diagnosed with COVID-19 as of April 27.

The Walworth County Department of Health & Human Services' Emergency Operations Center requested National Guard assistance in setting up on-site testing at Birds Eye.

The National Guard will conduct testing on May 7 and 8 -- testing employees, family members and household members.

"The state has been working very hard to increase the testing capacity across the state," said Joe Trovato with the Wisconsin National Guard. "This is one way the National Guard can be of assistance."

Trovato also issued this statement Monday:

"We continue to work closely with our partners across the state to anticipate needs, and yes, we have received a request from assistance from Walworth County to send a specimen collection team there May 7-8. Our specimen collection teams consist of 20-30 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen. We anticipate collecting approximately 1,400 samples over those two days."

A Conagra Foods company representative issued this statement to FOX6 News on Sunday, May 3:

"The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. In our vegetable facility in Darien, we have been proactive to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using physical distancing techniques, screening temperatures, encouraging the use of masks and increasing the sanitation throughout the facility. Due to positive COVID-19 tests we decided to suspend operations on April 17. We are finalizing plans and intend to begin operating the facility soon.

Conagra will continue to pay employees who are not working as a result of suspending operations. We will also pay employees who need to be away from work due to a COVID-19 related illness, including people who have been diagnosed, as well as employees who have been exposed to the virus or are not feeling well.

When the facility resumes full operations, we will continue to use our rigorous plant maintenance, sanitation processes, and other preventative measures to maintain a safe work environment."

CLICK HERE for more information on Conagra Brands’ Response to COVID-19.

Below is COVID-19 data out of Walworth County as of May 1:

Total number of laboratory confirmed cases 180
Cases currently hospitalized 6
Cases currently isolated at primary residence 113
Cases recovered 53
Deaths 8

In Milwaukee, Palermo's Pizza plant shut down Friday, May 1 after five employees were confirmed positive.

Over the weekend, the National Guard helped test workers. Those who test negative will soon be able to return to work.

"The faster we can get in, and doing the testing, the more we can identify the individuals who need to be isolated," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "As uncomfortable as this is, I'm sure for everybody, I think it's really, in some ways, the way that this can be done, and done correctly."