COVID-19: Kansas Data Identifies Packing Plant Clusters

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Wednesday disclosed a list of active COVID-19 clusters that link Kansas meatpacking plants to the clusters.

At least 2,148 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to six meatpacking plants, according to the new data. Five of the plants are located in Kansas. One, Triumph Foods in St. Joseph, MO, was identified as an out-of-state source of cases.

The disclosure, reported by the Kansas City Star, marked the first time KDHE made public a list of active COVID-19 clusters. Past policy limited identification of cluster sites. The release came as Kansas’ top health official announced plans to ramp up testing going into this fall.

KDHE says the plants are locations of some of the state’s largest outbreaks, with 647 cases at the National Beef plant and 594 at the Cargill plant, both in Dodge City.

KDHE also reported numerous other clusters in Dodge City, including 37 cases linked to Dodge City Community College Athletics and 12 others in the school’s general population. At Dodge City Public Schools, 27 cases have been reported. Thirteen cases are linked to a cluster at city hall.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced last week KDHE planned to release the locations of cluster cases, saying that by sharing the information, “Kansans will be better informed about the threat of COVID-19 in their schools and communities, and will be better prepared to contain and stop the spread of the virus.”

But several statewide business groups, including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Kelly on Wednesday urging her not to release the information, according to the KC Star report.

“We are unsure what the benefit of this disclosure offers, other than a public shaming of businesses where an outbreak occurs,” Kansas Chamber President and CEO Alan Cobb said in a statement.

Other notable cluster locations include:

Seven Kansas State University Greek houses

Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University and Benedictine College

The K-State and University of Kansas football teams

In addition to meatpacking plants, KDHE data identified clusters of cases at 26 long-term care facilities, six health care facilities and four religious gatherings.

Kansas jails and state prisons also had some of the largest clusters with more than 400 cases identified at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility and Sedgwick County Jail.

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