Prairie Industries responds to COVID-19 inquiry, saying ‘small number of employees’ tested positive

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By Correne Martin

 

Prairie Industries issued a statement in response to inquiry about the number of employees who tested positive for COVID-19 following mass testing on-site May 5.

“We have unfortunately had a small number of employees test positive for COVID-19,” the company statement said, not specifically releasing exact numbers of positive cases.

“Out of respect for our employees, we are honoring their privacy, and to ensure compliance with patient privacy laws, we are unable to provide further detail on the results of the recent testing conducted in Prairie du Chien,” the statement continued. “For now, we are focused on supporting these individuals and are praying for their quick recovery.”

The Wisconsin Army National Guard conducted the nasal swab testing of more than 320 employees at the request of Prairie Industries and the Crawford County Emergency Management.

Officials previously stated that two employees from Allamakee County, Iowa, brought the virus into the north plant in late April. When initial test results came back positive, Prairie Industries suspended its second shift from April 26 through May 1, to protect employees against further contact risks. The north plant was shut down beginning the following week.

“At Prairie Industries, the health and safety of our employees is always our first priority,” the company’s statement to the Courier Press said Monday. “As COVID-19 began to impact Wisconsin, we moved quickly to adjust our operations to prevent the spread to our facilities. This included changing numerous internal processes, procedures, and protocols such as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures, installation of physical barriers to separate workspaces and the elimination of all non-essential touch points throughout the facilities. We also implemented more robust employee sick leave and relaxed attendance policies to encourage anyone who might be sick to stay at home. We believe we have taken every possible step to help protect our employees while also maintaining the continuity of our essential operations.”

Prairie Industries said its administration is confident that, since the beginning of this pandemic, they have monitored the situation daily and followed official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Labor.

The statement concluded, “We thank the various federal, state and local government agencies and public health authorities for their support and collaboration, as we have and will continue to work with them closely to keep our employees and the community safe.” 

Though Prairie Industries did not address when its north plant will reopen, county health officials said during the May 5 media briefing that reopening would depend upon symptom severity and the condition of those testing positive.

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