Coronavirus: 33 cases linked to farm outbreak in Urbana

Over 30 cases of the coronavirus have been linked to a farm in Urbana, according to a statement from the Champaign Health District.

As of Monday morning, 33 employees of Michael Farms, located at 5089 Urbana-Moorefield Rd. in Urbana, have tested positive for the virus, the statement said.

Any close contacts of those who have tested positive have been asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days, according to the CHD.

Shelby Ballentine, Health Educator for the CHD, said no one associated with the outbreak is hospitalized as of Monday and all 86 employees of the farm have been tested for COVID-19 by the Ohio Department of Health.

“Some results are still pending,” Ballentine said.

Michael Farms supplies grocery retailers and foodservice distributors in Ohio and surrounding states with fresh produce, according to their website. The farm grows snap beans, sweet corn, cabbage and potatoes on nearly 3,000 acres.

According to the CHD, the outbreak appears to be limited to workers who also reside on the premises. Customers who have visited the facility to purchase produce remain at low risk, CHD said.

“We are working through proper channels with local health officials to protect the safety of all of our employees as well as the public. Impacted workers are being kept separate from others and will be remaining in their on-site residences to avoid any contact with the local community,” Scott Michael, CEO of Michael Farms said in a statement.

The Springfield News-Sun reached out to Michael with additional questions regarding the outbreak and was told he had no additional comment.

As of Monday afternoon, Ohio has reported 93,963 total cases and 3,539 deaths of the coronavirus, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Between Sunday and Monday, 932 new cases were reported, a drop from the 21-day average of 1,291 cases.

Champaign County has remained relatively low in positive coronavirus cases since the disease was labeled a pandemic in March. According to the ODH’s website, as of Monday afternoon, Champaign County had 138 cases, and one death, of the coronavirus — Clark County had 1,086 cases, 12 deaths and 2 probable deaths.

Champaign County is also one of just 23 counties in the state, and the only one in the Miami Valley, to be listed as a level 1 on Ohio’s COVID-19 risk level guidelines.

But cases appear to be on the upswing in the county, CHD Health Commissioner Gabe Jones said.

“In the four months since our first reported case of COVID-19 in Champaign County, we were at 56 cases. In the last three weeks alone, we have had 82 cases - a 146% increase,” Jones said. “Now more than ever we urge all Champaign County residents to please take all precautions you can to protect yourselves and others.”

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday that residents who live in more rural areas of the country are now contracted the virus more rapidly as the pandemic moves into a “new phase.”

“It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas. To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” Birx said.

On Friday, the district issued a statement reiterating to community members the need to follow CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those include staying home if you feel ill, maintaining six feet between individuals, frequent hand washing, sanitization of high-touch surfaces and wearing a facial covering in public.

Ballentine said the district feels the message needs to be communicated more as the county has seen an increase in cases.

“Preventative measures were encouraged pretty heavily at the start of the pandemic, but we felt that residents should be reminded again considering that these precautions are just as important now as they were at the beginning on COVID-19,” Ballentine said.

Facts & Figures:

33: Employees of Michael Farms in Urbana have tested positive for the coronavirus

86: Total employees of Michael Farms in Urbana have been tested for the virus, but results are pending

138: Number of coronavirus cases in Champaign County

1,086: Number of coronavirus cases in Clark County

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