As Emporia receives 500 testing kits and three analyzers from Abbot laboratories, new clusters of positive cases for COVID-19 have been identified in Tyson, Simmons, Hostess and Detroit Diesel.
With stringent healthcare guidelines in place, Mayor Danny Giefer believes the workers are fulfilling an essential role not just for the city but for the nation.
“Emporia has a disproportionate amount of industrial jobs per capita than other cities and they have all been working,” Giefer said. “That’s good, but you have a lot of people working close together…Our slaughterhouses help produce twenty five percent of the nation's beef, so that is critical to the food chain.”
With the arrival of 500 test kits from Abbot laboratories and 700 from the state rollout of 6,500 kits, Giefer said that the impact has already been felt across the nation.
“You know it's already impacted the price on beef which is really low,” Giefer said. “Farmers are facing shortages and the price at stores has risen because of lower production amounts…All we can do is try to keep the plants safe and running.”
With 27 cases at Emporia’s Tyson plant, workers have been asked to use vacation days to isolate themselves and a reward of $500 for those who maintain a perfect attendance as reported by KTHV-11 despite concerns over a lack of testing equipment and proper social distancing enforcement.
“The Regional Development Association sent out surveys to address issues with shifts and some of the challenges that these businesses may be facing,” Giefer said. “Tyson has plants all over the state, and we realize a lot of people are working in close quarters…These companies also have corporate rules to follow. Cargill has started using thermal imaging to screen the health of their employees while Simmons has been struggling to find thermometers to use since they are so hard to come by.”
With the hotspots now garnering state-wide attention, Giefer said that the test kits from Abbot laboratories would not have been possible without representative Roger Marshall and help from the state and federal governments.
“We would not have gotten those kits or the three analyzers without their help,” Giefer said. “The impact these packing plants have can be felt across the nation.”
Lane Massey, assistant city manager has also been working to address the city’s budget amidst a revenue shortfall.
“We look at sales tax revenues, expenses in our departments and how COVID-19 has impacted the cities bottom line,” Massey said. “(We are) anticipating a big effect on revenues. (We are) looking at ways to reduce expenditures while trying to avoid dipping into reserves.”
This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.
If you are not feeling well and are experiencing either coronavirus or flu symptoms, call (instead of visiting) the Student Wellness Center at 620-341-5222 or Newman Regional Health, 1201 W 12th Street, at 620-343-6800.
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