Alachua County Health Department announces outbreak of COVID-19 in agricultural community

Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 12:01 PM EDT
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Levy County and Alachua County health officials have confirmed two new significant outbreaks of COVID-19 in our area all involving migrant agricultural workers.

We'll show you in which community the outbreaks occurred and why officials say more positive tests could be on the horizon.

Alachua County health officials received word of 2 positive cases last Friday and traced the contact between those people to almost 100 others.

Alachua County Health Department Administrator Paul Myers said, "we are able to identify 98 additional persons of interest and we tested them here on Saturday evening and as of right now we have 84 test results back 76 of which are positive and 14 labs are pending. So we have a significant outbreak in this community and we're taking steps to isolate and quarantine everyone who has been impacted."

Levy County cases jumped from 39 to 90 in the past week, both county outbreaks occurred in single clusters of migrant agricultural workers. In Levy County at an unnamed farm in Chiefland and in Alachua County another un-named farm. However, Myers says you shouldn't be worried about catching COVID-19 from local produce. "There is no evidence to support Covid-19 can be transmitted through the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Even in the absence of this pandemic, I would always advise people to rinse their fruits and vegetables before consumption."

One organization tasked with helping vulnerable communities is now asking to get COVID-19 prevention literature to minority communities in their own language.

Robin Lewy is the Director of Programming for the Rural Women's Helth project who said, "we've been really concerned that COVID-19 testing information and prevention information has been very slow to come out in languages other than English and this is a state-wide problem not just in NCFL."

TV20's Landon Harrar reported, "Lewy says she hopes that farm owners and packing house owners want to be part of the response to help curb this outbreak. She says allowing testing on their sites and properties is one step towards doing that as well as making sure any worker who tests positive does indeed stay quarantined for 14 days."

Myers says they are still waiting on tests from surrounding counties because migrant workers typically live in close quarters and travel in groups. Almost every worker tested on Saturday was a-symptomatic which means according to CDC guidelines they can continue to work but must be kept together as a group.