24 Spokane pasta factory workers test positive for COVID-19

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A pasta company has announced there was a coronavirus outbreak at its Spokane factory as Washington state prepares to reopen parts of its economy following a two-month lockdown.

Philadelphia Macaroni Company Inc. confirmed the outbreak in a statement Friday saying 72 workers were tested for the virus and 24 were positive, the Spokesman-Review reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The outbreak led to an increase in cases in Spokane County where no more than five people tested positive for COVID-19 every day in May until this week, health officials said. There have been 31 confirmed cases reported in the county between Thursday and Friday. Spokane County has had 450 people with COVID-19.

Philadelphia Macaroni Company employees have worked through the pandemic with enhanced safety protocols including increased sanitation, employee training, facial covering requirements and screening, officials said. The company is considered an essential business, and makes the pasta that goes into macaroni and cheese.

All of the factory employees have since been tested, the facility was disinfected and company leaders are evaluating its reopening timeline, official said.

The company is also working with the Spokane Regional Health District to conduct contact tracing and determine further prevention measures.

District spokesperson Kelli Hawkins said 20 of the 31 reported cases in the last two days were tied to a single outbreak. The district would not confirm where the outbreak took place.

“Unless there’s a need for public safety for us to disclose that information, we’re giving them the opportunity to take care of the people they’re serving,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins expects the case count to rise, especially as the county loosens restrictions, reopens businesses and provides more contact tracing and testing.