COVID-19 outbreak at Livingston Foster Farms facility, health officials say

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Foster Farms is back on the COVID outbreak list as ICU bed capacity nearly reaches a limit in Merced County.

The Livingston plant previously spent many weeks on the outbreak list, which is defined as three or more unrelated, laboratory-confirmed cases linked to a workplace facility within two weeks.

Nearly 400 Foster Farms employees have already tested positive for COVID-19, and at least eight of those people have died.

The workplace outbreak was the worst in Merced County and one of the deadliest in the state, according to County Public Health officials.

It also led to a temporary shutdown of the plant in September.

Foster Farms released the following statement regarding the outbreak:

"Foster Farms is committed to the health and welfare of its employees and joins the State of California and Merced County in responding to the recent resurgence of COVID-19.

Foster Farms maintains an ongoing weekly COVID-19 surveillance program at its Livingston Poultry Complex and processing plant, which is among the most comprehensive testing programs in California. The purpose of the surveillance program is to sample a portion of the workforce and provide early warning of a potential increase in COVID-19 prevalence among workers showing no symptoms - asymptomatic individuals. By removing workers identified as asymptomatic and screening out those with symptoms from entering facilities, the spread of the virus can be curtailed. Foster Farms will expand testing to include all workers at its major processing facilities on a weekly basis effective next week.

Since September, Foster Farms has conducted over 10,000 COVID-19 tests at the Livingston Poultry Complex, with prevalence levels below 1%, compared to the current Merced County 11.2% prevalence level. Testing over the last two weeks has identified a total of 19 workers at the Livingston Poultry Complex as being COVID-19 positive. The individuals, along with those identified as close contacts, have been advised to self-isolate and seek any necessary medical attention. They will receive all appropriate medical benefits.

Foster Farms provides testing summaries to the Merced County Public Health Department on a weekly basis and has already advised the Department of the most recent testing results, which fall within the state and county's 3+ case definition of an outbreak. Foster Farms has also fully informed its workforce.

Foster Farms closely follows the COVID-19 guidance of the CDC as well as state and county health officials, and abides by all applicable statutory regulations. The company maintains an active set of mitigation measures designed to protect workers from COVID. Foster Farms recently appointed Dr. David Rollins, a specialist in occupational health safety, to oversee the company's COVID-19 programs. Along with company staff, Dr. Rollins will review mitigation efforts to further ensure effectiveness.

COVID-19 represents a continuing challenge to all who live and work in California. Tempering the recent statewide surge in COVID-19 will require active cooperation of government, public health authorities, business and the greater public. Foster Farms is committed to protecting its workforce as part of this broader effort."
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