Woman claims her mother contracted COVID-19 at frozen Mexican food company plant

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- UPDATE - Ruiz Foods has confirmed that a total of 43 of its employees have tested positive at its two locations in Central California.

The two locations are in Tulare and Dinuba.

Original story follows.

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A woman who wants to remain anonymous claims her mother, a Ruiz Foods employee of at least 20 years, contracted COVID-19 after coming in contact with a positive patient at the Dinuba plant.

"They share the same break room, so that is how they came in contact with each other," she said.

Tuesday, officials with the frozen Mexican food company say they were notified several of their team members tested positive.

As a countermeasure, Ruiz Foods announced the closure of several production lines at its Dinuba and Tulare facilities.

According to the employee's daughter, rumors of a positive case started spreading about a week and a half ago.

"When that first case came around, we should have been notified and from what she knows, there's about five positive cases," she said.

Ruiz Foods say they can't provide details about specific team members who tested positive.

Per the company's spokesperson, they are working with employees to make sure they get tested, but the employee's daughter we spoke with claims testing of any kind was never mentioned.

They went to their primary care physician, and Tuesday, she tested positive.

She was asked to stay home for 14 days and then return to work.

"It was heart-wrenching to hear my mother call me and say, 'I'm so sorry to expose you to this, and now I can't see you guys,'" she said.

The Ruiz Foods Vice President said in a statement that the health of their team members is their first priority.

He adds they've implemented more worker safety precautions than what is currently recommended by the CDC.

The woman says enough is not being done.

"Come out with the truth and say this is how many cases we have," she said. "I think they should close the plant to make sure that the plant is clean."

The Ruiz spokesperson says getting testing done has been a challenge, but they are working to have a mobile testing unit at their Dinuba plant later this week.

Here is the complete statement sent by the Ruiz Foods spokesperson:

Ruiz Foods has been taking extraordinary and proactive measures since before Covid-19 was identified as a pandemic. The situation has been a challenge for employers, especially as guidance has changed. We immediately imposed travel restrictions, hygiene requirements, and educated our team members to prevent infection. We have implemented temperature screening and mandatory mask wearing. We have enhanced our already stringent sanitation processes, and worked to improve physical distancing within the facility to the maximum extent feasible.

Still, with Tulare County infections on the rise, we are being impacted. I'm sure you know, Tulare County continues to have the highest number of Covid-19 positive cases out of the six county Central San Joaquin Valley area.

Following CDC, OSHA, and local health authority guidance, we inform any team member who we learn has been exposed to a Covid-19 diagnosed person - whether that exposure is from another team member or a member of the community. We are placing any exposed team members off work for a minimum of 14 days. We also work with the team member to get tested.

Original guidance was to refer the team member to their physician, and we have been doing that. We also have been working with Tulare County HHS and other partners to increase testing options. This has been a challenge, but as more testing options become available we will be able to get more team members tested. In fact, later this week, we are working to have mobile testing units in place in Dinuba to assist us with this process.

This is a pandemic and data changes constantly. Just as governmental and health authorities are throttling restrictions up and down to minimize Covid-19 cases, Ruiz Foods is making data based decisions about our operations. As the level of spread in our communities impacts our Team Members, we will consider the impact and run those lines and shifts that we feel can safely run.

At the same time, our Team Members must remember their responsibility too ... when they are not at work in the evening or over the weekend. They must remember to stay at home, don't congregate in large groups, wash their hands frequently and wear face masks when going out to the grocery store or pharmacy. We are in this together and we each must do our part/

At the same time, while we recognize that we are an essential business, what is and will always be more important to Ruiz Foods is the health and safety of the Team Members who work in our facilities.


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