This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. ( File photo/Courtesy National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Rocky Mountain Laboratories )

More than 235 employees of Dole’s salad processing plant in Springfield, Ohio, tested positive for COVID-19.

A mass testing event collected 829 test samples from employees on June 13, Emma Smales, health planning supervisor at the Clark County (Ohio) Combined Health District, said in a statement. 

“We are somewhat surprised at the large number of positives from the testing event,” Smales said in the statement. 

Dole Fresh Vegetables is following the health district’s recommendations to further protect the health of employees, contractors and community, according to a statement from Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications at Dole Food Co. Inc., Westlake Village, Calif.

All Dole employees who tested positive were asked to self-quarantine. 

While away from the plant, they will continue to receive pay and will return to work once authorized by the health district, Goldfield said in the statement.

The Springfield plant continued operations with all cleared personnel.

“We are striving to get salads to people around the country but are focused first on providing a safe and healthy workplace for our employees and their respective families,” Goldfield said in the statement.

The county health department hired 14 additional contact tracers and by June 23, found 281 total confirmed cases related to the outbreak at Dole’s plant, according to the statement.

Another complicating factor is that Spanish is the primary language for about half of the employees, and Haitian-Creole for about a quarter, Smales said in the statement.

The district is adding interpreters to its rosters and collaborating with the state department and local leaders “to provide effective and culturally appropriate communication and education to all Clark County residents,” Smales said in the statement.  

In Clark County by June 22, there were 627 confirmed cases and seven confirmed deaths from COVID-19, according to the county health district. The average age of those with the new coronavirus is 38.

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