Chautauqua County leaders say more than half of the employees of a Dunkirk food production facility were tested earlier this week for COVID, with 24 results coming back positive. Officials also explained why they have deemed it unnecessary to close the plant at this time.
Earlier this week, county and state health officials conducted a mass COVID test, covering 393 of 650 employees at Fieldbrook Foods in Dunkirk. In addition to the 24 positive results that came back, officials say an additional 14 close contacts of employees have also recently tested positive for the coronavirus. One other employee tested positive in June but that was considered an isolated case.
"In addition to our mass testing clinic on Tuesday, several employees of Fieldbrook Foods have been tested at local healthcare providers. That is really where we were able to first determine positive cases and got the heads up on this outbreak brewing, from the screening protocols at Fieldbrook Foods," said Chautauqua County Public Health Director Christine Schuyler. "We are working with Fieldbrook to get a complete list of everyone who has been tested through the screening process, because those numbers would be in addition to those who tested negative at our testing clinic."
Schuyler and other county leaders say they and state officials conduct inspections of Fieldbrook, which produces milk and ice cream, and they have collectively determined that it is unnecessary to close the plant at this time.
"As a milk producing factory, Fieldbrook runs two shifts of production, first shift and second shift. Their third shift really is a sanitation shift," Schuyler explained. "They thoroughly clean and sanitize the plant on third shift, so every 24 hours they do a deep clean. It did not seem to make any sense to close them down to have them do a deep clean since they're doing that every 24 hours. They also have standard protocols and guidelines in place where employees are screened before they come into work. Any employee who screens positive for any symptoms of COVID-19 is immediately sent home, and is sent to a local healthcare provider for COVID-19 testing."
County leaders could not pinpoint an origin of the outbreak, noting that it had also come to their attention that two or three large public gatherings were also held recently in the Dunkirk area.
The state will be offering additional testing at Dunkirk's Murphy Fire Training Ground from Saturday to Wednesday, by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 1-833-NYSTRNG.