The biggest increase any Missouri county has seen so far, a doubling of the number of cases of COVID-19 in a single day, hit Audrain County on Friday.
The Audrain County Health Department, which has been dealing with an outbreak associated with pork production in Paris and Thompson, reported 24 new confirmed infections.
The county had 22 active cases Thursday afternoon. That jumped to 46 Friday.
The number of cases in the county started to grow Monday after four were confirmed at concentrated animal feeding operations operated by Brenneman Pork of Washington, Iowa. It is the first known instance of a COVID-19 outbreak at a swine production facility in Missouri.
An additional 11 were confirmed Tuesday, with nine tied to the Thompson and Paris farms. Five were confirmed Wednesday, one Thursday and 24 Friday.
The health department has stopped identifying how many cases are associated with the hog production. Health department administrator Sandra Hewlett indicated the jump in cases was from hog farm employee and non-farm exposure. Exact numbers of each were not provided.
Employees brought to the United States under the TN-Visa program work at the farms, Brenneman Pork owners Rob and Char Brenneman said in a statement provided to the Ledger. They live in a mobile home court in a remote area of Audrain County.
"Last week, we had some employees at our Missouri location beginning to show symptoms of COVID-19," the statement reads. "Testing was done immediately."
The company provided all employees copies of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in early March for COVID-19 prevention, the company stated. Additional safety protocols also were put in place.
In their housing, employees have individual bedrooms and are able to isolate and social distance, the statement read.
"Team members were directed to stay home and isolate if they were feeling sick," the statement read.
Staff were encouraged to seek appropriate medical treatment as well.
The farms are working in split shifts. Frequent disinfecting was required in high-travel areas and staff were educated on social distancing.
The USDA has not observed COVID-19 in swine. The farms use biosecurity processes of shower-in, shower-out facilities, air filtration, UV light sanitation and logistics for animal movements, according to the statement.
Approximately 500 county residents have been tested for COVID-19. Of those, 432 were negative and another 20 test results are pending.
Drive-thru testing is available by physician orders at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital — Audrain 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment only on Sundays. The Audrain test site will be closed Monday in observance of Memorial Day. Testing also is available in Columbia without doctor’s orders at the Hearnes Center Parking Lot behind the University of Missouri football stadium. The testing site is open until 7 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.