About 38% of employees at Rite Stuff Foods in Jerome, Idaho, have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday. The company is one of several in the state that have reported employees had contracted the illness.
The company, which has produced specialty potato products since 1989, employs 173 people.
Some 66 positive cases were reported, the majority coming in on May 22 after the company held a mass testing campaign on May 19, said Yvonne Humphrey, a spokeswoman for South Central Public Health District in Twin Falls.
“They have implemented more social distancing and enhanced their hygiene measures. They were not running at full capacity because they had limited staff already,” she said.
The company is screening employees for fever before shifts, and all new positive cases will be isolated at home for at least 10 to 14 days, she said.
Not all people who test positive exhibit symptoms, which can range from mild to severe.
“Keeping our employees safe is vitally important to Rite Stuff Foods,” the company stated in an email to Capital Press on Tuesday.
“Since March, we’ve taken extra measures in our facility to limit our employees’ risk exposure to COVID-19 while they are on the job,” the company stated.
After being informed by the public health district that more than 10 of its employees had become ill, the company tested all of its employees to help protect them and limit the spread.
“Rite Stuff Foods is working with employees on contact tracing, will be operating with limited shifts and will continue to increase sanitizing and safety measures. It is the company’s commitment to continue to listen to our employees and adapt quickly and provide safe working conditions,” the company stated.
Rite Stuff isn’t the only Idaho food company with positive cases. The Associated Press reported on Tuesday 44 workers at Ida-Beef in Burley have tested positive.
South Central Public Health District has not yet responded to Capital Press’ request for information, but Ida-Beef owner Allan Ward verified the slaughterhouse has had confirmed cases. The company employs about 95 people at the facility.
The first confirmed case was on May 14, and the company had local hospital staff test employees on May 20. Ward closed the plant and tentatively plans to reopen on June 1, he said.
Across the state, Fry Foods — which produces battered and breaded appetizers — has identified 20 cases at its Weiser, Idaho, plant and six cases at its Ontario, Ore., plant.
The company immediately closed the Weiser plant on May 11 after the first positive case was identified, and closed the Ontario plant on May 14. It conducted testing at both plants on May 15, said Doug Wold, Fry Foods human resources manager.
The issue has been contained and the plants “are back up and running with a lot of new checks and procedures,” he said.
The company employs 600 people at the two plants. Possible exposures have been isolated at home and are just coming out of quarantine, he said.
Very few people testing positive were symptomatic. Only one had serious respiratory issues and has recovered, he said.
CS Beef Packers in Kuna, Idaho, has had 23 confirmed cases in employees, one probable case and two confirmed cases in contracted staff, said Christine Myron, spokeswoman for Central Public Health District.
All employees the health district has been working with have recovered, she said.
The company has not yet responded to a Capital Press request for more information but issued a statement on May 11 saying operations will continue with a focus on enhanced cleaning and sanitation programs in all areas of the plant.
Before opening in 2017, the company had expected to employ about 700 people.