Wilkesboro, NC – Earlier this week, the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) issued a statement regarding several outbreaks in meat processing plants across the state. Locally, Wilkes Health, local government agencies, and state partners are in contact with our local plant to ensure the health and safety of employees.
The plant reports that it is has taken measures to protect employees and decrease the chance of person to person transmission throughout the facility. Some of these measures include, but are not limited to, temperature and symptom checks, relaxed attendance policy to reinforce the importance of staying home when sick or to meet childcare needs, as well as restricted visitor access to our facilities. They are also providing personal protective equipment and employing social distancing policies where possible. The plant also reports that they have waived the co-pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits or telemedicine for COVID-19 testing as well as eliminated pre-approval or preauthorization steps.
Wilkes Health understands organizations that process meat are critical front line workers just like health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees, and truck drivers. The Wilkes Health team ensures that the meat processing plant is given all the necessary guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and NC DHHS. Along with this guidance, Wilkes Health speaks daily to the plant regarding employee health and any new recommendations that are developed. Wilkes Health has worked with the plant to identify a process for how to manage confirmed cases and close contacts to cases. If a confirmed case is identified, then the employee is told to self-isolate for seven days or 72 hours post fever, whichever is longer. The plant will also send home those who are considered close contacts to a positive case with instructions to self-monitor symptoms and to call a medical professional if symptoms develop.
With meat processing plants being part of the food supply chain, they are recognized as one of the 16 critical infrastructures for national security. The goal of the plant, Wilkes Health, and local officials is to ensure that we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure the plant can stay open.
Wilkes Health wants to reinforce that according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence that food or food packaging is associated with the transmission of COVID-19.
Wilkes Health also reminds the public that community transmission is happening in Wilkes County. Every person is a potential carrier, even if no symptoms are present, so it is urgent that every person -sick or healthy- stay home to the fullest extent possible and help break the chain of transmission. Wilkes Health wants to continue to encourage people to protect themselves to help lessen the spread of COVID-19 in our community. There are many ways we can all protect ourselves and our communities.
How to Protect Yourself
Practice social distancing which means avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, keeping 6 feet or more between you and others and remaining at home to the greatest extent possible
Frequent hand washing
Stay home when you are sick
Keep distance from others who are sick
Avoid touching your face
Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles
Wear cloth mask or face covering when out in public where you may be around people, for example in grocery stores or pharmacies
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. To view the case count for North Carolina, including a county map, please visit the NC DHHS website here.
A COVID-19 toll free helpline has been set up to answer general, non-emergent questions at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”