Austin, Minn., (June 11, 2020) - Mower County Public Health, Mayo Clinic Health System, Hormel Foods and Quality Pork Processors (QPP) have joined forces to create a targeted testing program as part of a multi-phase approach for a community-wide response to COVID-19. The Community Health First plan is the latest addition to continuing efforts for slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the area. The plan includes a voluntary testing program with team members of Hormel Foods, QPP and Albert Lea Select Foods and their family members. Community testing will also continue to be available through Mayo Clinic Health System. The swab testing and lab processing will be provided by Mayo Clinic in partnership with Mower County Public Health, Hormel Foods and QPP. As state restrictions are loosened and people begin to resume normal activities outside of their homes, local Austin stakeholders have convened and committed resources for a comprehensive plan to help slow the spread of the virus.
The multi-stage plan includes education, prevention, screening and ensuring that those who are exposed to COVID-19 are quickly identified, quarantined, and have access to world-class community health care.
The plan also includes a pilot program for conducting testing across multiple weeks, versus single-day mass testing; an effort that Mower County Public Health supports as a consistent and reliable way to track the virus, provide follow-up care and meet the needs of the community.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have had lower numbers of COVID-19 cases in our community for the last few months,” said Pam Kellogg, community health division manager of Mower County Public Health. “That can be credited to our citizens, who took the threat of the virus seriously, sheltered in place and did their part to keep COVID-19 from spreading in our area. As states have loosened their guidelines and travel and other commerce picks up, we will likely see more positive cases and have joined together to create a plan that allows us to continue to function as a community, while ensuring those who are impacted have the access to the health resources they need. We are in this together and will stand together as a community, putting our people first. We feel strongly that the approach we are taking is the right one given what we’ve learned from other communities that had dramatic increases in the earliest days of this pandemic.”
“One of the most important ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to do testing and solid contact tracing for those who test positive, so we can identify those who might unknowingly spread the virus,” said Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin. “Mayo Clinic Health System has developed deep expertise in setting up testing sites and performing the tests, and Mayo Clinic Laboratories is processing many thousands of tests per day for patients in Minnesota and across the country. We are happy to offer our testing capabilities to this project, and of course we will continue to provide compassionate, world-class care not only for patients with COVID-19, but to everyone with healthcare needs.”
“As a global branded food company, Hormel Foods has been working closely with numerous local, state and federal health agencies and officials to KEEP COVID OUT! of the communities where we live and work. While we have had cases reported by team members in Mower County, we have been told to expect higher positive cases as community spread increases, ultimately leading to potential impacts on our team. We are prepared for that and will continue to put the safety our team members first. Given the extensive protections we have in place, including masks, face shields, temperature screening and facility innovations for social distancing, we feel that our workplace is one of the safest places our team members can be,” said Clint Walters, Hormel Foods Austin Plant manager. “Our very first team member to test positive was in early April and we did not see another positive test result until more than a month later,” Walters continued. “We credit that to our Safety First culture, the hard work of our teams to stay safe at work and at home, and the fact that we have taken a proactive approach since the earliest days of this pandemic related to PPE and other facility innovations to protect those team members who cannot work from home. Several weeks ago, we created a program called KEEP COVID OUT!, which is a multi-step informational campaign to prevent COVID-19 from entering our facilities and educates team members about what they can do to stay safe away from work.”
As part of this effort, Hormel Foods is making its KEEP COVID OUT! communication and educational materials, translated into 10 languages, available to all organizations, businesses, retail and foodservice establishments in the community.
Quality Pork Processors, which operates adjacent to the Hormel Foods facility in Mower County, has similar protocols and screens, tests and quarantines any individual who may have come in contact with someone who has tested positive. The company is also preparing for onsite testing of its new hires through its health program to begin soon.
“Quality Pork Processors continues to focus on the safety of our team members during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Nate Jansen, president of Quality Pork Processors. “As one of the largest essential employers in the area, we know we have a responsibility to do our part to keep COVID-19 out of our community and our facility, and we are up to the challenge it presents. We understand that people want to get back to normal, but we also know that as interactions increase, so will our risk of having team members test positive. We expect this to continue throughout the summer and are prepared for our total numbers to grow.”
This collaborative effort is expected to be in place as long as COVID-19 poses a threat to our communities. “Public health experts tell us that this pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, and that we need to adjust to a new normal in order to keep our communities safe as the virus continues to circulate,” said Kellogg. There are things we can all do to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safer:
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Stay at least 6 feet from other people if you are in public places.
- Telework if you are able to do so.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are 65 and older or have certain underlying medical conditions, stay at home and avoid situations where you could be exposed, including travel.
- Wash your hands often, with soap and water. Wash for at least 20 seconds.
- Always wash your hands after being in a public place.
- Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth in grocery stores and all other public places where it is hard to stay 6 feet away from others.
More specific guidance on these measures can be found on the MDH website: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/prevention.html
ABOUT HORMEL FOODS — Inspired People. Inspired Food.™
Hormel Foods Corporation, based in Austin, Minn., is a global branded food company with over $9 billion in annual revenue across more than 80 countries worldwide. Its brands include SKIPPY®, SPAM®, Hormel® Natural Choice®, Applegate®, Justin’s®, Wholly®, Hormel® Black Label®, Columbus®, Happy Little Plants® and more than 30 other beloved brands. The company is a member of the S&P 500 Index and the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats, was named on the “Global 2000 World’s Best Employers” list by Forbes magazine for three straight years, is one of Fortune magazine’s most admired companies, has appeared on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “The 100 Best Corporate Citizens” list for 11 years in a row, and has received numerous other awards and accolades for its corporate responsibility and community service efforts. The company lives by its purpose statement — Inspired People. Inspired Food.™ — to bring some of the world’s most trusted and iconic brands to tables across the globe. For more information, visit www.hormelfoods.com.
ABOUT MAYO CLINIC HEALTH SYSTEM
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive highest-quality physical and virtual health care close to home.
ABOUT QUALITY PORK PROCESSORS
Quality Pork Processors, Inc. is a privately held meat processing company located in Austin, Minnesota, and employs over 1,300 people. The company celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2019 and has one of the best safety records in the industry, and we put the safety of our people as priority #1.
ABOUT ALBERT LEA SELECT FOODS
Albert Lea Select Foods, Inc. is a privately held meat processing company located in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and employs over 500 people. The company celebrated its 15th Anniversary in 2020 and has one of the best safety records in the industry, and we put the safety of our people as priority #1.
Press ContactKristy Jacobson