Posted March 31, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Worker at Tyson plant is confirmed positive;

Health Department working with Tyson

Lake Cumberland District Health Department Executive Director Shawn Crabtree briefed several on hand last Wednesday concerning a employee at the Clinton County Tyson Foods plant who had tested positive for the coronavirus disease. Among the officials at the briefing was Clinton County Judge/Executive Ricky Craig, standing at left.

Many local businesses in Albany and Clinton County are displaying signs like the one shown at left, indicating they have either closed to walk-in business during this coronavirus pandemic, or they have closed all together during the crisis.

The novel coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, came closer to Clinton County last week when officials announced that a worker at the Tyson Foods plant has tested positive for the disease.

The announcement came last Wednesday afternoon during a media briefing held in Clinton County Judge/Executive Ricky Craig’s courthouse office.

Shawn Crabtree, Executive Director of the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, addressed those on hand for the briefing in Craig’s office.

Crabtree said that among the cases that had been confirmed at that time within the 10 county Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD) region, one case involved an employee of the Clinton County Tyson Foods plant located in the Snow Community on Ky. 90.

“One of the cases in Wayne County that was confirmed is an employee of Tyson here in Clinton County and that is why I am making this announcement now,” Crabtree said. “Tyson’s is a large employer in our area and a lot of people are in that building.”

He also noted that the virus is not transmitted through the consumption of food, and further said that food preparation practices already in place for the plant was one area of good news.

“One bit of good news is that Tyson has to operate in a sterile environment, so many of their employees, when they are in the building doing their work, have to wear personal protective equipment,” Crabtree said. “So the spread would be limited in that regard.”

He also confirmed when asked specifically by Clinton County News Editor Al Gibson that the patient was a resident of Wayne County who worked at the Clinton County Tyson plant.

He said LCDHD had already begun its investigation into the confirmed case and had also begun its
“contact investigation” regarding the patient, looking into who the patient had been in close personal contact with.

Crabtree read a statement from Tyson’s External Communications Spokesman, Worth Sparkman, at the company’s corporate headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas.

“We can confirm that a team member in Albany, Kentucky, tested positive for COVID-19. Our first priority is to ensure that this team member’s medical needs are being met. With guidance from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, team members that may have come in close contact with this individual are being notified and will self-quarantine for the recommended period of time. As par with our COVID-19 procedures, we’ve been taking measures to protect our employees during this time, including implementing required temperature screen of all individuals before they enter our facilities and limiting visitors to our facilities to only essential support. As is our daily practice, the entire plant will be cleaned and disinfected today.

“Our team members’ safety and food safety is critically important to Tyson Foods. Consumers should know that according to the CDC, COVID-19 is not considered a food safety concern. We are closely monitoring our operations in Albany and around the world during this evolving situation. As America’s largest food company, we’re considered a critical infrastructure business by the US Department of Homeland Security, so ensuring we’re able to continue producing food is essential for the nation,” Sparkman concluded.

Crabtree did confirm that the LCDHD is working with the Clinton County Tyson plant to make sure that the plant and its employees can maintain what he called a “reasonable degree” of social distancing.

Abner says local testing has taken place

Lucas Abner, the Clinton County Emergency Services Director, updated local citizens on Monday of this week with an address from the County Judge/Executive’s office, and also briefly addressed those on hand during Wednesday’s briefing, which also included most of the county’s elected officials as well as local media members.

In his Monday comments, Abner noted that local tests had been administered in at least seven instances and that testing was being done at The Med Center at Albany as well as at local physicians’ offices.

He added that among the tests that had been reported, four had come back as negative, while test results for the remaining three had not yet been returned.

Abner urged local citizens to be careful where they rely on for information concerning the COVID-19 situation here.

“We want to ensure the citizens of Clinton County that we will be briefing you as we get the information,” Abner said. “One of the things that I’ve noticed today, since this has happened, is the rumors that take place very quick. Don’t believe social media other than the sources of Lake Cumberland District Health Department, Clinton County Emergency Management or the Clinton County Judge’s page.”

Abner said that by following one of those sources, reliable information could be learned by the public eager to know the current situation.

“We will be updating our county on our Facebook page daily,” Abner said.

He also noted that due to the tremendous amount of comments and questions being asked by the public on the Facebook page, it simply wasn’t possible to answer all of the questions being posed.

Abner also explained that depending on the call received at the Emergency Management, ambulance crews could show up wearing personal protection gear.

“It’s as much to protect you as well as our crews,” Abner said.

During the early portion of the Wednesday briefing, Crabtree also gave a brief explanation of the coronavirus itself, noting that it was from a very common family of coronavirus that had mutated and enabled itself to be transmitted from its original form of animal to animal, then from animal to human and finally in its current state of being able to transmit from human to human.

“It’s more dangerous than the cold and flu, although for many people they will have cold and flu-like symptoms, it’s more dangerous in a couple of ways,” Crabtree said.

He further said that the fact that this virus is so new in its current form is one of the issues that makes it such a threat to society.

“There’s no vaccine for this, and since it is just now being introduce into the human species, no one has an immunity to it, which means everyone is susceptible to contract the virus, unless you have already had it and recovered from it,” Crabtree said. “As far as we know, no one has caught the coronavirus – 19 or COVID-19 twice.”

Crabtree further explained that it could be possible that the virus would further mutate and change into a form that could inflict a former patient a second time, but that had not been the case anywhere yet.

“Our major theme right now in the health department is we want to say that our citizens are our biggest asset in the fight against coronavirus and they are also our biggest liability in the fight against coronavirus,” he said. “If you will observe the things we have been suggesting – avoiding crowds, and social distancing – staying six feet away from each other, covering your cough or coughing into your elbow, into a napkin or handkerchief, and making sure you are washing your hands frequently.”

Crabtree added that not observing those safety measures would enable to virus to spread quicker through society.

He explained that the description of “clinically” washing hands involved wetting one’s hands, putting soap on them and lathering them up for 30 or 45 seconds, making sure to fully involve the areas between your fingers as well as the back of your hands before rinsing them off.

“Splashing with water doesn’t cut it,” Crabtree noted.

He also noted that the state and federal government had given up on trying to contain the virus at this point, assuming that the virus would continue to spread.

“Right now, we are looking at mitigation as opposed to containment, Crabtree said. “Mitigation is just trying to slow it down and control it as much as we can. Why would we do that? Because we don’t want too many people to get sick at any given time.”

He explained that in an instance where a multitude of people became sick at one time and had to be hospitalized, the hospitals would not be able to deal with the overload.

“While we can’t contain it, we do hope to slow it down so that the hospitals are not overwhelmed,” Crabtree said.

He noted that anyone who felt they had symptoms and needed to be tested should not go to their healthcare provider, but should first call that provider and go through a telephone screening first, then follow the directions given according to that telephone screening outcome. He added that these precautions were in place to prevent an infected person from mingling with the public.

Judge Executive Craig, in closing out last week’s briefing, noting that frequent public updates and media updates would be held by his office and before he ended Wednesday’s session with a word of prayer, he urged all of Clinton County’s citizens to be praying for the wellbeing of everyone in order to get through this crisis.

“We’ll get through this, but we need your all’s prayers,” Craig said.