Outbreak at KC plant reminds us that COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared, health officials say

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than 200 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Aspen Paper Products.

As large protests continue and businesses begin to reopen, the Kansas City Health Department has a reminder for the public.

“We want people to remember that COVID is still there,” said Tiffany Wilkinson, division manager for commercial disease prevention and public health preparedness.

The plant is located just off Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, in Kansas City’s 3rd District, which has the most local cases of the coronavirus.

The Kansas City manufacturing plant alerted the health department of its first known case of COVID-19 in mid-May.

President Bill Biggins Jr. told FOX4 when the number of positive cases reached 24 that’s when they decided to offer company-wide testing.

Biggins said they shut down production last Friday and Saturday to sanitize and allow employees to get tested at Research Medical Center.

More than 200 have tested positive. Biggins said it’s especially concerning because the vast majority of employees were asymptomatic. 

“It’s really important to identify anyone that is positive so that they don’t work in that facility until at least 10 days have passed since they’ve been tested if they’re not existing symptoms,“ Wilkerson said. 

The Kansas City plant employs about 850 people.

Biggins said they were taking all the right precautions: taking employee temperatures, requiring gloves and masks and social distancing. But still, hundreds of employees were infected.

The health department and Aspen Paper Products have now worked to develop a strict mitigation plan. It includes routine testing of employees over the next two weeks. 

For worried consumers, Wilkinson said the risk of the virus traveling from one of these employees to their paper products and then to your table is extremely low. 

“Environmental surfaces are not as conducive to transmit the virus, especially for products that have been shipped out or been sitting for a number of days, hours,” she said. 

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