Central Valley Foster Farms plant shut down amid uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak, 8 deaths

LIVINGSTON, Calif. -- Merced County health officials announced on Thursday they are shutting down the Foster Farms facility in Livingston due to an uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak.

So far, 358 of the employees at the facility have tested positive and eight of its employees have died because of the coronavirus.

Merced County health officials say the facility is a hotspot for the virus in the county and a source of large proportion of the area's COVID-related deaths.

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According to a statement released by the county, for Foster Farms employees, the case fatality rate is 2.2% while it's 1.3% for the rest of Merced County.

The outbreak started back on June 29 and the county says that it made trips to the facility and issued two formal directives to the company, ordering it to increase testing and implement safety measures.

However, it says those directives were not followed and spread of the coronavirus has continued, leading to the order to close.
Authorities have ordered it to close until the outbreaks are under control and it can reopen safely.

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Merced County says it has been working with state health officials and Foster Farms to try to keep the essential food production line open, but could not reach an agreement.

In a statement, California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra supported the closure.

"If we're going to keep food on our tables during this pandemic, we must do a better job of protecting the essential workers who are putting it there. That means standing up for the people in our poultry facilities, agricultural fields, meat processing plants, restaurants, grocery stores, and more. Foster Farms' poultry operation in Livingston, California has experienced an alarming spread of COVID-19 among its workers. Nobody can ignore the facts: It's time to hit the reset button on Foster Farms' Livingston plant."

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