By Devin Fehely

MORGAN HILL (KPIX 5) — The Santa Clara County Department of Public Health is scrambling to prevent a cluster of three dozen coronavirus cases at a fish processing plant in Morgan Hill from becoming a wider outbreak.

“A couple of weeks ago, an employee from this company, their spouse was hospitalized with COVID. They got tested as a contact and discovered that they were positive as well,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s Chief Health Officer.

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Dr. Cody says the company, Lusamerica Foods, Inc., quarantined and tested all of the employees with whom the infected person had been in contact. But when some of those people tested positive as well, the county stepped in.

“The county stood up testing in collaboration with the company. And over the course of a day, we tested everyone there,” said Cody.

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Lusamerica Foods released a statement that reads in part, “All those who have tested positive are at home; the majority are asymptomatic. All employees who tested negative will be retested as a precautionary measure.”

The company had also implemented a number of safeguards to prevent any further spread of the virus, including all employees provided with face masks which are mandatory while on the premises, temperature checks are taken at the beginning and middle of each shift, and protective barriers have been installed at work stations.

Since March, dozens of food processing plants across the U.S. have had to shut down over coronavirus outbreaks among workers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5,000 meat-packing workers at more than 100 facilities across 19 states have been infected with COVID-19.

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Earlier this month, a coronavirus outbreak at a Central Valley meatpacking plant infected at least 138 people. Nine food processing plants in the Los Angeles County city of Vernon have had outbreaks, including one plant that had at least 153 people infected since March.