COVID-19 cases keep climbing at Virginia poultry plants; some members of Congress seek better protections

A car at an April 27 rally on the Eastern Shore in support of poultry processing plant workers.
A car at an April 27 rally on the Eastern Shore in support of poultry processing plant workers.(Legal Aid Justice Center)
Published: May. 5, 2020 at 8:19 AM EDT
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COVID-19 cases continue to rise at Virginia’s Eastern Shore poultry plants, with Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday reporting more than 260 cases associated with two facilities run by Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms in Accomack County.

“We are also still closely tracking cases in the Shenandoah Valley, which has a large number of plants — cases that have increased as well, but the increase is smaller and could be leveling off,” said Northam. “Our focus right now remains on the Shore.”

Poultry plant-related cases now represent about 60 percent of Accomack’s confirmed cases, which according to the Virginia Department of Health totaled 425 Monday. Twenty-one people in the county have been hospitalized, and six have died. How much testing has been conducted is unclear. Despite VDH previously providing testing numbers by locality, the department’s new dashboard omits the metric.

Larry Hill, public information officer for VDH’s Eastern Region, said in an email Monday that this data “has been taken down for a few days but will be back up sometime this week.”

State attention has increasingly turned to the Eastern Shore over the past week and a half as outbreaks emerged at the Tyson Temperanceville and Perdue Accomac facilities. Last week, in response to a request from Northam, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Delaware Gov. John Carney, teams of workers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were deployed to the Delmarva Peninsula to help stem the disease’s spread at the region’s numerous poultry processing facilities. However, some advocates have pressed for the state to do more on its own.

Testing is currently available at 10 sites on Virginia’s portion of the Eastern Shore, said Hill, who also noted that the CDC has visited the Accomack plants and is providing them guidance.

On Friday night, the Tyson Temperanceville plant announced on its Facebook page that it would be conducting mandatory COVID-19 testing for all employees on May 5 and 6 “in order to protect the health and safety of all team members.”


The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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