coronavirus. Image Source: IANS News

San Francisco, May 25 : A cluster of COVID-19 outbreaks hit nine facilities in the Southern California city of Vernon, including a meat packing plant in which 153 employees were reported to test positive for the virus, authorities said.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Sunday said that five of the nine facilities were meatpacking plants and the largest of the outbreaks was at Smithfield (Farmer John), where 153 of 1,837 employees tested positive, reports Xinhua news agency.

Out of the 153 employees who were positive, a total of 41 Smithfield employees have returned to work, said the department in a statement.

The meat processing company has offered testing to all employees and the positive results span from March through May.

It is unclear if the rise in cases in Vernon's facilities is due to additional testing or to spread amongst workers, said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The department said that it's supporting the City of Vernon, located around 8 km south of downtown Los Angeles, on response and mitigation plans and to ensure that close contacts are identified, and isolation and quarantine orders are issued.

"We are closely monitoring outbreaks within facilities in the City of Vernon, as many of the employees reside in adjacent Southeast Los Angeles communities," said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county's Department of Public Health.

"We have assigned an infectious disease doctor to work closely with the Vernon Health Director on response and mitigation plans, and we are engaging in comprehensive contact tracing protocols to ensure that close contacts are identified and isolation and quarantine orders are issued, to keep employees and their families safe," she added.

Los Angeles County reported 940 new COVID-19 cases and 14 more virus-related deaths on Sunday, raising the countywide total number to 44,988 cases with 2,104 deaths.

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-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text

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