COVID-19 cases up by five

Published 11:32 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases originating at addresses with a Smithfield ZIP code rose to 47 this weekend, up five from the 42 reported last Friday.

The Virginia Department of Health further reports that there are now eight outbreaks in its Western Tidewater Health District, which includes all of Isle of Wight County, Southampton County and the cities of Franklin and Suffolk. The eighth, identified last week, is reported to be at a congregate facility, which can mean anything from an apartment complex to a workplace, church or other group setting.

But the VDH won’t say whether any of the five new Smithfield cases are tied to this latest outbreak, or even in which locality this outbreak is occurring. Dr. Todd Wagner, director of the WTHD, said he could not comment or elaborate on the matter beyond what was already listed on the VDH website.

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Isle of Wight County has likewise received no information that would suggest a link between Smithfield’s five new cases and the latest outbreak, according to Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

For the past several weeks, the number of outbreaks district-wide had held at seven, five of which were reported to be at long-term care facilities. The sixth was reported to be at a correctional facility and the seventh, at another congregate facility.

Lisa Martin, director of corporate communications for Smithfield Foods, was unable to confirm whether any of the five Smithfield cases or the congregate outbreaks were tied to the meatpacking plant in town, which employs nearly 1,800 people.

“Healthcare authorities do not share specific details about COVID-19 outbreaks or local cases with us,” she said.

Smithfield Foods is continuing to offer free, on-demand COVID-19 testing to all employees at its more than 40 U.S. facilities, according to a press release the company issued on June 12. According to that release, anyone who tests positive is immediately sent home with pay, and the company requires any employee who tests positive to furnish a doctor’s note or subsequent negative test before returning to work.