Update: Although the Crawford County Health Department had not issued a press release by 4:30 p.m. Monday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment released information Monday indicating 96 total cases in the county, with 60 cases with a symptom onset date of June 12. Wichita TV station KWCH, meanwhile, reported that Crawford County saw an increase of 57 cases over the weekend. "The Crawford County Health Department is aware that daily case updates from KDHE may not always align with County updates," it notes in its most recent release, as it has in past releases. It also notes, however, that "KDHE does not include presumptive positive cases on the State map," which in the past has generally meant that numbers reported by the county would be higher than those reported by KDHE rather than the opposite. The reason for the differences in the numbers of cases reported was not immediately clear.
PITTSBURG, Kan. — In one week, Crawford County has seen its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases more than quadruple, from 10 cases as of Monday last week to 44 cases by Sunday.
Many, but not all, of the new cases are apparently connected to the SugarCreek bacon packing plant in Frontenac. Before last week, there had not been a new case confirmed in the county since April. There has still only been one COVID-19-related death in Crawford County.
On Friday, County Health Officer Rebecca Adamson said SugarCreek had turned down an offer from the county health department and Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas to test all of its employees. She added, however, that the offer was still on the table, and SugarCreek apparently changed course later in the day.
SugarCreek could not be reached for comment by press time Monday but reportedly issued a statement to media on Friday that it was "arranging tests for our associates."
The company also noted that management at its corporate office in Ohio as well as in Kansas, along with community leadership, "have been very helpful in getting that set up for this weekend. We are grateful for the community’s help in arranging for such a large volume of testing on short notice."
In light of "the heightened awareness of COVID-19 and the impacts on the food supply chain companies, it is important to ensure SugarCreek’s response plan is consistent with relevant guidelines. We monitor information from public health agencies, government officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other relevant sources. We have weekly auditing of our plans by our Safety Managers to confirm that we are meeting or exceeding all relevant guidance and expectations," the statement continued.
"It takes each of us to maintain a safe and healthy workforce. SugarCreek cannot control what an employee does outside of work. We have a diverse workforce, and our employees live in several states and counties. Each of those locations address and handle COVID-19 differently. COVID-19 risk mitigation cannot only be at work—it must occur at home and in our communities."