Coronavirus: Dole outbreak in Springfield nears 300 as three zip codes are labeled hot spots

Clark County Combined Health District is monitoring a COVID-19 outbreak at the Dole plant in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Clark County Combined Health District is monitoring a COVID-19 outbreak at the Dole plant in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The total positive coronavirus case related to the Dole Fresh Vegetables plant in Springfield is now over 270, according to the Clark County Combined Health District.

Results from Saturday’s mass testing of the plant’s employees returned 236 positive results, CCCHD spokesperson Emma Smales said. Prior to the testing, the county had confirmed 38 positive cases connected to the outbreak.

Smales said all of the results from the weekend’s testing of 829 employees are in, but the district is still going through data to make sure they do not have any duplicate results.

“But that number should not change by more than one or two,” Smales said. “But as contact tracing continues and contacts are identified, the total outbreak number will increase.”

Charles Patterson, CCCHD Commissioner, said Dole officials have been, “very helpful,” and, “gone out of their way to help us.”

“They actually paid the employees to come in for that testing on Saturday,” Patterson said.

MORE:More than 100 confirmed cases related to Dole plant in Springfield, health officials say

But despite the outbreak, the plant will remain open, according to a statement from William Goldfield, the director of corporate communications for Dole on Friday.

“From our conversations with CCCHD they maintain that closure is not warranted,” the statement said. “They will be providing resources to conduct return-to-work screenings for our employees and are very focused on helping us get Dole back to work.”

The CCCHD said they do not have the authority to shut down the plant. They said that would fall to the Ohio Department of Health.

The Springfield News-Sun reached out to ODH, who said that’s not the case.

“They do have the authority to ask them to close. But they would probably reach out to the state and ask them to do it instead because it’s a bigger undertaking,” Melanie Amato, press secretary of the Ohio Department of Health said.

Amato said ODH has not considered shutting Dole down.

“We are waiting to see what is going to happen now that we have all of those confirmed cases,” Amato said.

Ohio surpassed 40,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday. The state reported 43,731 total cases and 2,667 deaths as of Friday afternoon, according to ODH.

In the last 24 hours, 609 cases were reported in the state, which is down slightly from the 700 new cases reported on Thursday. In the last two days new case count jumped — bucking the statewide average. In the last 21 days, the state was seeing an average of 436 new cases each day, according to ODH.

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine called the increases in cases in southwest Ohio, “worrisome.” He identified Clark, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery and Warren counties for their recent increases of positive tests.

DeWine even drilled down to specific zip codes of the hot spots. Three of Clark County’s zip codes made the list — 45503, 45505 and 45506.

MORE: Local coronavirus increase ‘worrisome’ DeWine says

“If you live in those zip codes, that should be a warning to you,” DeWine said.

People within the zip codes are asked to take extra care and be aware that community spread of the virus is more common in their areas.

Patterson said the additional precautions that residents could be taking in the three zip codes are the same precautions all residents should be taking, “wherever you live in Clark County.”

“We’ve been telling you for a couple of weeks now that our cases are on the rise. The social distancing and the masking are the things that you should do,” Patterson said. “You can’t differentiate because the people from the ‘05, ‘06 and ‘03 zip codes — they travel throughout our community and we know that the virus is not just in those areas.”

DeWine mentioned on Thursday that counties with hot spot zip codes could see Ohio National Guard assistance in testing residents.

Smales said the district has begun working with the state to set up a pop-up testing site and will release more details to the public when they know more.

“We are hoping to get something out there soon, but those talks are ongoing,” Amato said.

Clark County had 606 cases, seven deaths and one probable death of the coronavirus as of Friday afternoon, according to ODH’s website.