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The Case Farms processing plant on Fleming Drive in Morganton. 

The state has confirmed an outbreak of positive cases at a meat processing facility in Burke County.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported on Monday an outbreak of the virus at a meat processing plant in the county. The only meat processing facility in Burke County is Case Farms in Morganton.

NCDHHS defines an outbreak as two or more positive cases.

While the state hasn’t identified how many positive cases are at each facility, the department said there are currently 1,208 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 23 outbreaks at meat-processing plants in the state.

In addition to Burke County, other outbreaks at meat processing facilities in the state are in Bertie, Bladen, Chatham, Duplin, Lee, Lenoir, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Surry, Union, Wilkes and Wilson counties.

The outbreaks are included in the county breakdowns of positive cases, according to NCDHHS.

North Carolina Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said Monday there are other departments and divisions working with meat processing plants to make sure workers are safe, including the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said because workers at meat processing facilities are within 6 feet of each other, which puts them at risk, her department is telling plants to provide PPEs for workers, not just face coverings, provide testing onsite and offer sick leave to workers.

Cohen said all of the companies she has spoken with told her they are providing paid sick leave but she has not spoken to all of them.

Heather Overton, assistant director of public affairs for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the department is responsible for ensuring food safety. She said the positive cases in employees at meat processing facilities does not present a food safety issue.

Overton said COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness and the CDC has said the spread of the virus from food and food packaging is low-risk.

On Monday, the state reported 550 deaths so far from the virus and 15,045 positive cases, with 464 people hospitalized. The state says 195,865 people have been tested for the virus so far.

During a briefing Monday, Cohen said the state estimates that 9,115 have recovered from COVID-19 but reminded folks that an individual patient’s recovery could be longer.

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