The Oswego County Health Department is investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases at Champlain Valley Specialty as active cases in the county double in less than a week
OSWEGO — State and local health officials are investigating a cluster of positive COVID-19 test results confirmed in the past week at an Oswego Town food processing plant.
The number of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oswego County has been steadily if slowly rising in recent weeks with increased testing, but over the past week the number of active cases of the coronavirus more than doubled, from 12 on June 9 to 29 on June 16. County health officials have confirmed the uptick is related to an outbreak at Champlain Valley Specialty, a food processing facility on state Route 104 in Oswego Town.
County officials said Wednesday seven Oswego County residents who work at the Champlain Valley facility tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days. The full extent of the outbreak is not known at this time, as no information was provided as to whether there are more employees at the facility who are not Oswego County residents that have tested positive, or if there are family members or contacts of the seven employees who have tested positive.
Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Central Square, said the county health department is working closely with the state Department of Health (DOH) to ensure “all necessary testing, tracing and control measures are in place to effectively control” the spread of the virus. Weatherup said the cluster appears to have been transmitted through community, or local, spread, noting the outbreak illustrates the importance of following state guidelines to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus.
"Community transmission of COIVID-19 is still occurring in Oswego County,” Weatherup said Tuesday. “I can't emphasize enough the importance of practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks in public."
The county Health Department and DOH are working locally to test all employees at Champlain Valley Specialty, which manufacturers sliced apples under the brand name Grab Apples, according to the company's website.
Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said the investigation is evolving quickly. Huang noted the number of cases is expected to increase based on further testing and ongoing contact tracing. County officials said several families and their work locations are currently being investigated as part of an effort to track down all known contacts of the confirmed cases.
“The County Health Department is investigating in accordance with state guidance. We are, as usual, doing our due diligence in contact tracing and assisting those newly identified cases, which happen to include both employees and family members of employees," said Huang.
Local health officials said they uncovered the outbreak through routine disease investigations, and a county press release said officials are working closely with the DOH and facility owners to contact anyone who may have been exposed.
Oswego County Medical Director Dr. Christina Liepke said Champlain Valley officials are cooperating with the health department and the company is complying with DOH established COVID-19 guidelines, including social distancing and other precautions.
The Champlain Valley facility was inspected by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets this week, according to county officials, who said the inspection indicated the food product does not pose a threat to consumers and a recall is not necessary.
Nearly 12,000 Oswego County residents have been tested for COVID-19 as of June 16, an increase of more than 3,000 tests over the past week, from 9,740 on June 9 to 11,929 on June 16, according to county data.
County health officials investigate each positive case of COVID-19 in Oswego County, and when appropriate, family members and contacts are also placed in mandatory quarantine or isolation. All known contacts of COVID-19 positive patients are notified.
Health officials urge residents to take the following precautions:
- Wear a face mask or covering over your nose and mouth.
- Avoid non-essential gatherings of all types and sizes.
- Keep six feet from other people.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick unless you are seeking health care.
- Call your healthcare provider from home if you are experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
- Call 911 if you are experiencing life-threatening conditions.
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, in addition to muscle pain, headache, sore throat, chills, gastrointestinal illness and sudden onset of lost taste or smell.
Additional coronavirus-related uestions can be directed to the Oswego County Health Department COVID-19 hotline at 315-349-3330 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Information about emotional supports can be found at the Oswego County Department of Social Services Division of Mental Hygiene website at www.oswegocounty.com/mentalhygiene.