A newly released inspection report has revealed that a coronavirus outbreak at a meatpacking plant in northern Utah was more widespread than local health officials previously reported.
The Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division report said the JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum had 441 employees test positive for COVID-19 as of June 16 and one employee had died as a result, FOX-13 reported. The Bear River Health Department previously told The Salt Lake Tribune that 385 employees tested positive and no deaths were linked to the outbreak.
The report did not name the worker who died, but company spokesperson Nikki Richardson said additional life insurance and compensation was given to the family.
Bear River Health Department Epidemiologist Caleb Harrison said there was a discrepancy in numbers because the cases were being investigated based on where employees lived, not where they worked, so multiple departments were looking into the outbreak.
Utah Department of Health spokesperson Tom Hudachko said the state department keeps track of outbreaks when they cross health jurisdictions and that local departments only keep track of residents’ cases.
“The most important thing about these outbreaks is that they are caught, and they are addressed with public health intervention,” he said, adding that not every department is reporting the same numbers.
Inspectors finalized their report in July and the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division released it last week. Several people have returned to work at JBS Beef Plant, or in other jobs, officials said. No fines have been issued to the company.
“We have done everything possible to both protect and support our team members during this challenging time. We have adopted hundreds of safety interventions, provided increased pay and rewarded team members with bonuses,” Richardson said.
Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.