By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hospitals reporting fewer poultry workers positive for COVID-19
04152020 POULTRY 4.jpg
A Pilgrim's employee walks across Industrial Boulevard Tuesday, April 14, 2020, prior to entering the Gainesville poultry plant. COVID-19 has hit the Latino community particularly hard, so the poultry industry has been taking additional safety measures to protect its workers, many of whom are Latino. - photo by Scott Rogers

In the first three weeks of May, the number of poultry plant workers testing positive for COVID-19 was down considerably compared to the three preceding weeks.

According to statistics provided by health care providers to the Department of Public Health, there were 61 positive cases between May 1-21.

Between April 10-30, there were 315 positive cases among people in the poultry industry.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said there are an estimated 16,500 poultry employees in the state, and the tally of positive cases as of April 30 was 388.

District 2 Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer said the numbers are from health care providers “that capture employment data and serve the most poultry company employees.”

“When a person is entered into the state’s system as positive, and then retested later, they are not re-entered into the state’s tracking system. Testing information is included and tracked in their medical record from that point,” Palmer wrote in an email.

Specific statistics relating to the Northeast Georgia Health System were not available Wednesday, May 27.

Georgia Poultry Federation President Mike Giles said the average response among poultry plants is an 85% recovery rate. This was defined as employees who have tested positive at some point and are eligible to return to work, or what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call “discontinuation of isolation.”

With plants in Cornelia, Murrayville and Gainesville, Fieldale Farms President Tom Hensley said Wednesday, May 27, that the numbers of positive cases are “much better now.”

“Company-wide, we have 28 people still out with the virus. We have 207 who have recovered and come back to work,” Hensley said.

Hensley said he feels the message of social distancing has been driven home and taken to heart. 

The plant has continued its safety precautions with temperature screenings. Employees with an elevated temperature are sent to a nurse, who evaluates the employee on whether he/she should be tested.

Recovery times for employees have varied widely, with some taking a few days while others needing multiple weeks.

“I think people know now that if they do feel bad, they don’t come to work,” Hensley said.

Regional events