Notice: This story has been edited to add the statistics from the Henry County Health Department.
The Rock Island County Health Department reported 24 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, giving the county 426 in total.
The health department attributed 92 of the confirmed cases, as well as 2 deaths of Rock Island County residents, to an outbreak at the Tyson meatpacking plant in Joslin. There are other cases of COVID-19 with employees at the Tyson plant, but those individuals live in other counties in Illinois and Iowa which are responsible for the follow up on those cases.
The Henry County Health Department confirmed on Thursday that 10 of the positive cases of the 45 in the county are related to the Tyson plant, or 22% of the total cases. Of those 10, 7 are plant employees and 3 are close contacts of the employees.
“The meatpacking industry is inherently prone to COVID-19 cases because employees work in close proximity to each other,” said Nita Ludwig, administrator of the Rock Island County Health Department. “Our team has been working with Tyson managers for several weeks to work on mitigation efforts to reduce the number of cases, and the Tyson team has been taking our advice to heart.”
Ludwig added that Tyson has installed plastic barriers between workers and staggered shifts and lunch schedules to try and reduce the number of employees congregating together. Even though a team from the Rock Island County Health Department visited the plant earlier in the month, it is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect all meatpacking plants for food safety and operations.
Each patient from the plant and their family have been in contact with the health department’s infectious disease team to help minimize the exposure of the virus outside of the plant through the process of contact tracing.
The health department also attributes Rock Island County’s high number of cases to other factors.
“Rock Island County’s larger number also could be partially due to the social determinants of health and our demographics in Rock Island County. For more than 15 years, we have seen poorer health outcomes in our community health assessment for Rock Island County than we do in Scott County,” Ludwig said. “The data are showing that patients who have co-morbidities have a greater chance of serious COVID-19 infection or dying from the disease.”
Scott County has 222 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after 2 new cases were reported on Wednesday.