ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) – A state agency in New Mexico has reported 21 employees at a meatpacking plant in Roswell tested positive for COVID-19, the most cases reported to the state by any one job location in the area. The New Mexico Environment Department has advised USA Beef Packing LLC owner Jose Madrid on how to handle the influx in cases, the Roswell Daily Record reported.
Madrid said he is cooperating with the state as it investigates what has caused that number of cases, and has decreased operations to about 10%. Agency reports show the company reported its first positive test on July 28, and had two by July 31. The number of cases jumped to 21 by Wednesday. The company closed following the first confirmed case and all employees were to be tested, department spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said.
A quality control officer for the company previously told the Daily Record that the plant follows all federal and state guidelines regarding food and employee safety, including social distancing measures and employee temperature checks.
“We at USA Beef Packing understand the importance of continuing our essential service; to deliver safe and nutritional food to the world,” the company said in a statement, adding that it is following all necessary safety precautions.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.