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Coronavirus outbreak closes Indiana poultry plant
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Coronavirus outbreak closes Indiana poultry plant

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This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

INDIANAPOLIS — About 100 workers at a southern Indiana poultry processing plant have tested positive for the coronavirus in an outbreak that has it closed until at least Wednesday.

Fourteen more Indiana residents have died from coronavirus illnesses, pushing the state’s death toll from confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 closer to 1,800, state health officials said Monday.

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Poultry plant outbreak

Farbest Foods had the nearly 600 workers at its Huntingburg plant tested on Friday and the company was working Monday and Tuesday to notify healthy employees on when to return, said Ted Seger, president of the Jasper-based company.

Farbest’s Huntingburg plant is at least the fourth Indiana meat or poultry processing plant that has faced outbreaks of COVID-19 among its workforce similar to others in the industry across the country.

The worst such outbreak in Indiana has been at a Tyson pork-processing plant in Logansport, which was closed for nearly two weeks and tests confirmed COVID-19 infections among nearly 900 of the plant’s 2,200 employees, the company said. Smaller outbreaks happened at Indiana Packers Corp. in Delphi and Miller Poultry in Orland.

Seger said in a statement that tests confirmed 101 of the Farbest workers as infected with COVID-19 but without symptoms, while 23 tests were pending verification.

The Farbest cases have fueled 91 new confirmed coronavirus infections since Friday that have more than doubled the total number of cases to 161 in DuBois County, where the plant is located, according to Monday’s state health department update.

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State health crews have been monitoring cleaning work at the plant ahead of its reopening, said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said company and local officials have been “working hand in glove with us to make sure we are able to contain that spread.”

Virus cases

All but one of the state's 14 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths occurred on Saturday and Sunday, and they boosted Indiana's confirmed toll to 1,621, the Indiana State Department of Health said. The state agency’s statistics show that another 144 Hoosiers have died from probable infections of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, raising Indiana's confirmed or presumed deaths to 1,765.

The state’s weekly update of pandemic deaths at the state’s nursing homes, released each Monday, shows that deaths at those homes increased by 148 to 732 in a week. That number now accounts for more than 41% of Indiana’s toll from both confirmed and presumed COVID-19 deaths.

Holcomb and other state officials have refused repeatedly to identify nursing homes where deaths have occurred despite complaints from relatives of home residents about a lack of communication about illnesses and deaths. State officials maintain those facilities face federal and state requirements to notify the families about their COVID-19 status.

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For most people, the virus 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 or death.

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