This week officials of the Madison County government confirmed that the greenhouse of Green Empire Farms, employing over 300 employees, dealt with an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. In total, by now, more than 120 positive cases have been confirmed as a result of massive testing of asymptomatic workers at the facility. The testing was ramped-up rapidly to get a better grasp of the virus's prevalence.
No transmission via food
In the 26 hectare greenhouse tomatoes and strawberries are being grown. There is no concern for transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 via food products or plants that are grown at the facility. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets.
Most employees are seasonal workers hired through a third party employment agency. The testing of all employees continued this week. "All employees that were tested this week were asymptomatic. Because we have been doing daily health screenings, anyone showing symptoms was not allowed in the building," the company explains.
The team with Green Empire Farms has been working very closely and in full cooperation with the Madison County Public Health department, which continues to commend the company for the work they're doing to protect the employees. Though protective protocols were in place at the greenhouse, there may have been other reasons the virus was able to spread so quickly among workers, said Madison County Public Health Director Eric Faisst today in a press conference. He added that the greenhouse was working with the health department early on, as early as March, to ensure proper protocols and safety measures were in place.
Though protective protocols were in place at the greenhouse, there may have been other reasons the virus was able to spread so quickly among worker, said Madison County Public Health Director Eric Faisst today in a press conference. He added that the greenhouse was working with the health department early on, as early as March, to ensure proper protocols and safety measures were in place.
At the company daily temperature and health screenings of workers had been put into place already weeks ago and also face covering has been required for almost a month. The cleaning and sanitizing of the facility was increased when the global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic became clear and social distancing of workers has been put into place.
While the specific reason is unknown, some outlying factors may be considered. Employees at Green Empire Farms are seasonal, officials explained, and live together in temporary housing as well as traveling together to and from work on a bus or other form of transportation. All seasonal workers have been living together since December. Because of the close nature of being an employee off-site, this may have contributed to more opportunities for the virus to spread from one person to the next, despite preventative measures put in place.