The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) announced May 24 that it 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 are CLW Foods (meat), Vie De France Yamazaki Inc. (baked goods), Cal Farms Meat Company, Takaokaya USA Inc. (green tea), F. Gavina & Sons Inc. (coffee), Golden West Trading (meat), Overhill Farms (frozen foods), and Rose & Shore (deli meat and prepared foods).
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.
“L.A. 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. “L.A. 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 or more confirmed COVID-19 positive employees,” said Freddie Agyin, director of the 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.”
Public Health reminds everyone that if you are ill, even with mild symptoms, self-isolate at home until 10 days have passed after your symptoms first appeared AND at least three days after you have recovered. Recovery means that your fever is gone for 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and your respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) have improved.
Even if your test result is negative, you must remain at home for the full time, to prevent spreading your illness to others. If you have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed to be infected with COVID-19, you must quarantine for 14 days from your last contact with that individual.
Individuals who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions may be at higher risk of serious illness and should contact their doctor as soon as they are sick. The best protection against COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, self-isolate if you are sick, practice physical distancing, and wear a clean face covering when in contact with others from outside your household.
More on COVID-19 in L.A. County and things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community can be found on the Public Health website, www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.