BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — This week we saw some of our biggest spikes in COVID-19 community cases, with around 40 percent of them coming from the Latino community and some even linked to food processing plants.
Regardless of the place of work, all the essential workers must be protected.MARGARITA SOLORZANO, DIRECTOR, HISPANIC WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS OF ARKANSAS
On Thursday, May 28, the state saw the largest single-day increase of community spread COVID-19 cases.
“As I mentioned, the largest two counties are Benton and Washington County,” Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said.
According to Dr. Smith, most of the cases in Northwest Arkansas are in the Latino community.
“They represent more than 40 percent of these new cases,” he said.
With a big chunk of them being linked to food processing plants.
According to data released by the Arkansas Department of Health on Friday, May 29, there are more than 150 active COVID-19 cases in NWA from people who work in poultry plants.
“Many of the processors and the employees have engaged in testing efforts on their own,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said.
Governor Hutchinson and the ADH left an open door for the plants to increase testing within their own facilities.
“Certainly we are opened to working with worksites whether they’ve had a cluster or not for strategies of testing employees,” Dr. Nate Smith said.
Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas Director Margarita Solórzano said she’s happy the state is trying to step up, and hopes the processing plants will utilize this to increase testing for everyone.
“Our economy in Arkansas depends a lot on these essential workers and we must provide for them the testing and protective equipment,” she said.
Solórzano said this starts with education and making sure to reach out to all members of the Latino community about the resources available to get them tested.
“Every person in our community needs to have access to the test so that way they will be more informed and also probably taking more precautions in their daily living,” she said.
KNWA/KFTA reached out to all NWA poultry plant facilities to see if they’re increasing their efforts to try and get their workers tested.
Tyson is the only business we heard back from.
According to the spokesperson, the plant is currently not aware of any coordinated efforts to test team members, but they are looking into it.