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Local meat processing plant witnesses COVID-19 outbreak


The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has identified outbreaks of COVID-19 at nine facilities in the City of Vernon. The largest outbreak is at Smithfield (Farmer John) where 153 of 1,837 employees tested positive for COVID-19. The positive results span from March through May.

Out of the 153 employees who were positive, 41 employees returned to work. Smithfield has offered testing to all employees. The other eight facilities include CLW; Via De France Yamazaki Inc.; Cal Farms Meat Company; Takaokaya USA Inc.; F. Gavina & Sons Inc.; Golden West Trading; Overhill Farms; and Rose and Shore. Public Health is supporting the City of Vernon on response and mitigation plans and to ensure that close contacts are identified and isolation and quarantine orders are issued.

“LA County is alerting communities of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon, which is located in the Southeast region of the First District,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “LA County public health experts are working closely with Vernon’s Health and Environmental Control Department to ensure all preventive measures are taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. Our public health experts are making sure employees with the virus, and their families, remain quarantined to minimize exposure to others. I remind everyone to wear a cloth face mask when outside, stay home as much as possible, and maintain at least six feet of distance when around others. Together, we can slow the spread of this virus to keep our families and communities safe.”

It is unclear if the rise in cases is due to additional testing or to spread amongst workers. Companies are required to report any COVID-19 cases to the City of Vernon and all positive cases are reported to Public Health.

“We are closely monitoring outbreaks within facilities in the City of Vernon, as many of the employees reside in adjacent Southeast Los Angeles communities,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health. “We have assigned an infectious disease doctor to work closely with the Vernon Health Director on response and mitigation plans, and we are engaging in comprehensive contact tracing protocols to ensure that close contacts are identified and isolation and quarantine orders are issued, to keep employees and their families safe.”

Although, the City Vernon has few residents, workers positive for COVID-19 could spread the disease to the communities they reside in.

“The City’s Department of Health and Environmental Control has been working proactively with businesses in the City of Vernon that have five (5) or more confirmed COVID-19 positive employees,” said Freddie Agyin, MA, REHS, director, City of Vernon Health & Environmental Control Department. “The Department continues to review information on facilities’ COVID-19 mitigation plans to ensure they comply with CDC and CalOSHA recommended guidelines.  Specific details concerning any business located in the City should be forwarded directly to the individual business representative.”