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Wilkes County COVID-19 Positive Cases Surges to Over 240 Individuals; Tyson Foods Fresh Plant Closed for Deep Cleaning

By Nathan Ham

The COVID-19 outbreak associated with the Tyson Chicken Foods plant in Wilkesboro has led to a total of 242 laboratory-confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to data provided by the Wilkes County Health Department.

Of those 242 cases, currently, nine of those are being hospitalized.

While the exact total of positive tests from Tyson Foods Inc. employees has not been released, the company chose to close the Tyson Fresh Plant on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for deep cleaning and sanitizing. The Tyson Food Plant has remained open and working during this time.

According to the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, the first round of employee testing at Tyson had 39 positive tests out of 200 total tests (19.5 percent). After that, the decision was made to test each Tyson employee. The Wilkesboro complex employs roughly 3,000 people, including 2,200 at the fresh plant and roughly 275 at the food service plant.

The Wilkes County Health Department provides a demographic breakdown of the known positive tests in the county. Of the data available, 55 percent of positive Wilkes County tests have been men. Looking at the age range of the positive tests, 26-50 years of age make up 46 percent of the positive tests, 51 and older make up 37 percent of the positive tests and 0-25 make up 13 percent of the positive tests. Around four percent of the data did not have a known age.

Positive tests are also grouped together by zip code. 41 percent of the COVID-19 patients live in North Wilkesboro while 27 percent live in Wilkesboro and 8 percent live in Millers Creek.

According to Tyson Foods, the fresh plant is expecting to resume operations on Tuesday.