DUPLIN CO: Cases jump 53% in single day; won't say how many at Butterball

Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT
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Duplin County saw a 53% jump in COVID-19 cases in a single day but still won't say how many of those are due to an outbreak at the Butterball plant.

This afternoon, the county said they now have 78 confirmed cases. That compares to Monday's count of just 51.

WITN reported Monday that Butterball documents we've obtained show that 52 employees at the plant have tested positive for the virus. Documents received today show another 6 cases at the plant.

The company confirms there are positive cases at the plant, but won't say exactly how many.

Duplin County does say that each new confirmed case has been attributed to community spread of the virus.

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Documents show a Duplin County turkey plant has more than 50 employees who have come down with COVID-19.

Butterball says it has had positive cases at its facility outside of Mount Olive, but so far hasn't said exactly how many workers are sick.

WITN has obtained nine memos from Butterball CEO & President Jay Jandrain, the first being on April 13 and the last one from this past Friday. In the memos, Jandrain updates employees on positive cases from within the plant.

According to the memos, the total is 52 Butterball workers with the virus, while the highest number of cases reported so far was on Friday with 11 new cases.

In the memos, the CEO says they continue to follow previous protocol "which includes contacting those individuals who have had significant contact with these team members so they can also quarantine for 14 days."

The company told WITN that quarantined employees continue to get pay and benefits, while Butterball is reviewing their operational response on a daily basis. Butterball would not confirm the 52 cases, saying they don't feel a total number would give an accurate representation of that's going on at the plant. "This has been a fluid situation...as some individuals have recovered and returned to work," said Jordan Fossali.

Late Monday, Duplin County confirmed the outbreak at Butterball, but would not say how many workers had tested positive.

The county says the company is following guidance for meat and poultry processing plants to protect employees and the food supply.

At last check, Duplin County has 51 confirmed cases, but cases are attached to a patient's home county and employees at the Butterball plant could possibly be from several Eastern Carolina counties.