By Nathan Ham
A large COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Wilkes County has been attributed to the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant as positive test numbers surpassed 100 Wilkes County residents over the weekend. According to the Wilkes County Health Department, a total of 127 confirmed cases were reported as of 2:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
According to WSOC TV, the large increase in positive tests started at the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Wilkesboro. An exact number of positive tests of Tyson employees are unavailable due to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services regulations. Positive COVID-19 tests from one resident in Ashe County and 14 residents in Forsyth County have also been attributed to working at the Tyson facility in Wilkes. All shifts of Tyson employees will be tested for the virus at some point today.
Food processing plants in 10 other counties are experiencing their own COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. Those counties include Bertie, Bladen, Chatham, Duplin, Lee, Lenoir, Robeson, Sampson, Union, and Wilson counties.
Data provided by the Wilkes County Health Department shows that 80 percent of the COVID-19 transmissions are from close contact while 20 percent of the transmissions are from community transmission. 54 percent of the positive tests are men, 41 percent of the positive tests are women and five percent of the tests have incomplete data for gender. The largest age group affected has been 26-50 years old with 48 percent of the positive tests. 32 percent of the tests have been from people 51 and older and 13 percent have been 25 years old or younger. Seven percent have incomplete data for age. The towns most affected in Wilkes County are the two with the largest population areas. North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro account for 71 percent of the known positive COVID-19 cases.
Caldwell County numbers show that 38 people have tested positive for COVID-19. The bulk of those is in Lenoir where 23 of the positive patients reside. Hudson has had eight positive tests so far, Granite Falls has had six and a small part of the town of Hickory that is in Caldwell County has had one positive test. Last month, Caldwell County was considered one of the early hotspots in the state for COVID-19 positive tests where nearly 1,500 people have been tested for the virus.