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BURLEY — Several dozen employees at a meatpacking facility in the Magic Valley have tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, at least 44 Ida-Beef workers had contracted the disease, according to the South Central Public Health District. None of the infected employees have died or been hospitalized.

Brianna Bodily, a South Central Public Health District spokeswoman, said a representative for the health district visited the facility, which is currently closed, on May 20 to “help answer questions and provide education for the staff and administration there.”

Calls to Ida-Beef for comment on the situation were not immediately returned as of noon Wednesday. According to the Times-News, Ida-Beef operations manager Bill Gilger said the facility, which is the one of the largest meatpacking plants in the Magic Valley, was deeply impacted by the number of infected workers.

”We went from one employee being symptomatic to all of the crew not coming in,” Gilger told the Twin Falls newspaper.

Ida-Beef is expected to reopen Monday, the Times-News reported Tuesday. This date is subject to change.

Also on Tuesday, health district officials announced Cassia County, where Ida-Beef is located, is the fifth of its eight counties to have a confirmed community spread, Bodily said. This means there has been at least one positive case in which the infected person hadn’t traveled out of the state recently or had any known contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Burley-based slaughterhouse is one of several Idaho meat- and food-processing plants to experience an outbreak of COVID-19 in recent weeks.

C.S. Beef Packers in Kuna announced May 9 it had at least 23 employees test positive, according to a past Idaho Press report. Almost a week later, Fry Foods Inc. in Weiser reported 20 workers had contracted the coronavirus. And on Friday, at least 50 employees at Rite Stuff Foods in Jerome, also in the Magic Valley, tested positive for the disease.

Statewide, Idaho reported 73 COVID-19 cases over the holiday weekend, from Saturday to Tuesday. Cassia County had the largest jump with 21 new cases; it’s unknown if these are at all related to the infected workers at Ida-Beef.

“We are in an area where agriculture is the dominant industry and food processing plants are a huge part of that,” said Logan Hudson, South Central Public Health District division administrator, in a May 22 news release. “The nature of some of these jobs require people to work closely together, making social distancing difficult. Respiratory viruses, like COVID-19, are in the perfect environment to spread rapidly.”

Olivia Heersink is the Canyon County public safety reporter. You can reach her at oheersink@idahopress.com, or by calling 208-465-8178. Follow her on Twitter @heersinkolivia.

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