Butterball, the US turkey processor, has seen an outbreak of Covid-19 cases amongst the workforce at one of its plants.

Local media reports suggest almost 60 staff at the Mount Olive facility in North Carolina, where Butterball is based, have come down with the virus but neither Butterball or officials within the local Duplin County have confirmed numbers.

Earlier this week, Duplin County announced it had seen Covid-19 cases jump 53% in one day but would not say how many of those infections were connected with workers at the Butterball plant.

In a statement sent to just-food, Butterball was also unwilling to discuss numbers.

It said: “Because this has been a fluid situation and some individuals have recovered and returned to work, we do not feel a total number is an accurate representation of what is happening on the ground.”

On Monday (27 April), Duplin County said there were now a total of 78 Covid-19 cases in the area. Local news outlet WITN said it had obtained Butterball documents showing that 52 of those cases were employees at the turkey plant and then, later, other documents reported another six workers with the virus.

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Butterball said in its statement: “We have a specific procedure for anyone being tested for, confirmed ill with, or asked to quarantine because of Covid-19, which includes pay and benefits. This policy exceeds what we are being asked to do by public health officials.

“In recent months, we have made efforts at all of our plants to ‘flatten the curve’ – including strict sanitisation protocols, social distancing everywhere possible, daily temperature screenings and surgical-style face mask requirements. We will continue to aggressively pursue initiatives that best protect our teams while they are at work.”

Duplin County said its health department is leading the outbreak response, including contact tracing to determine who may have been exposed to each Covid-19 case.