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Food processing Covid outbreak forces church to reclose

Churches continue to seek a balance between reopening and keeping staff and members safe. Community Baptist Church in Noel, Mo.., has decided to reclose after increased testing discovered a COVID-19 cluster in the food processing industry.

“We did all the things we were supposed to do,” Pastor Joshua Manning said, according to KSDK-TV in St. Louis. “We shut down for two months. But the cases have just started to sprout up.”

READ: What is Phase II of reopening plan?

Murray, his wife and three children are experiencing symptoms of the illness as they await test results. McDonald County where they live recently had fewer than two dozen confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 498 cases have been confirmed, many of them tied to the Tyson Foods chicken processing plant in Noel. The plant employs considerable numbers of immigrants who are more susceptible to contracting the virus because of their living conditions.

Though it has just 23,000 residents, only four other Missouri counties and the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City have recorded more cases. But even in Kansas City, just 30 people have died from Covid.

Last week, Missouri health officials began testing all 1,400 workers at the Tyson plant. Results haven’t been announced but the state health department said it is working with local health departments on contact tracing and is offering free testing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to send investigators.

Gov. Mike Parson attributed the rise in confirmed cases to increased testing, not a resurgence of the virus. “We are not overwhelmed,” he said. “We are not currently experiencing a second wave, and we have no intentions of closing Missouri back down at this point in time.”

Parson frequently urges Missourians to use common sense, but the McDonald County Health Department is going further, stressing the need to avoid gatherings beyond immediate family, wear a mask when leaving home and practice social distancing.

While Missouri continues to see more cases of Covid, the death rate has plummeted to levels below that of the annual flu.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice