SPRINGFIELD — There will be a lot more coronavirus cases in Clark County not associated with the Dole plant outbreak announced Tuesday night, said county Health Commissioner Charles Patterson, who hinted that “a bunch more cases” would likely be reported Wednesday.
“We’re are definitely on the upswing,” Patterson told News Center 7’s Sean Cudahy.
The cases Patterson said could be reported out today still need to be checked to make sure they aren’t duplicates.
The Clark County Combined Health District is investigating three other outbreaks not associated with the 20 COVID-19 cases identified at the Dole plant in Springfield, he said, and the majority of new county cases are not associated with one the three outbreaks. They are community acquired.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t reopen Ohio,” Patterson said. “I’m very worried as we reopen Ohio the number of additional cases we’re seeing in Clark County.”
He said the county was late in seeing cases (compared to other counties).
But, Patterson warned, “we’re starting to see the pandemic curve. We’re still on the up slope of that graph, he said of the county.
“This isn’t last year’s Memorial Day weekend…people can’t just do what they want…We have to reopen Ohio and do it responsibly or we’re going to see a pandemic curve we don’t ever want to see in Clark County,” Patterson said.
According to the health district investigation, all of the Dole outbreak cases involve employees or contacts of employees at the plant.
“We believe there is some disease transmission going on outside the plant itself,” Patterson said.
One of the Dole outbreak cases involves a driver who was ferrying people back and forth to the plant in a van. Other cases have been traced to living areas off campus where employees are sharing living quarters with each other.
“It’s one of the things we have seen with some of the individuals” Patterson said. Some of the workers are not highly paid. Sometimes they buddy up to make expenses work, and it’s like having a roommate, he said, noting that therefore they can afford to do that.
“We have not seen any evidence COVID-19 has spread inside the plant,” Patterson said. “The only connections we’ve seen have been connections between households.”
Patterson knocked down any question about whether consumers should be worried about the food products produced at the Dole plant.
“This is not a food borne illness,” he said. “There is no concern about the food.”
Patterson said his dinner tonight included salad from Dole: “I’m not worried about that at all.”
Food produced at the Dole plant “is not one of those things people should think about,” he said. “When people go out, they should wear a mask, they should social distance, wash their hands and if they are around anybody who appears to be coughing or is sick — stay away.”
Patterson said the next steps for the health district is to continue training contact tracers so health district workers can go back to their regular jobs.
Also, he said, the district is hoping to work with Dole this week to test for asymptomatic cases because so far, only those at the plant who have shown symptoms or have had contact with people at the plant have been tested.
“People are asking ‘where are the cases?’ Any time you go out, because of the number of asymptomatic cases were seeing in Clark County, you have to assume that anybody who is not living in your household has it,” Patterson said. “Just because we are reopening Ohio doesn’t mean we can let our guard down and let this virus take control.”
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