(Reporter Brent Martin at Missourinet St. Joseph affiliate KFEQ contributed to this story)

State health officials have announced that 359 employees and contract workers at a massive pork processing plant in northwest Missouri’s St. Joseph have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced the latest statistics on Saturday, adding that results from the comprehensive testing continue to arrive on a rolling basis. Additional updates are expected this weekend.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) logo (image courtesy of DHSS)

A spokeswoman for DHSS, Lisa Cox, tells Missourinet the vast majority of the Triumph Foods employees were asymptomatic.

Governor Mike Parson appeared Friday on Missourinet St. Joseph affiliate KFEQ Radio (AM 680), telling “Hotline” host Barry Birr that Triumph Foods became a test of sorts for Missouri’s new strategy of rapidly deploying COVID-19 test kits to a potential hot spot, in an effort to prevent a massive outbreak.

“And that’s the first big major test that we’ve done,” the governor tells KFEQ. “Most of the people that have tested positive are asymptomatic. So, the good news to that is we know who they are, they’re not sick, so we can take action with that.”

State officials sent test kits to St. Joseph and contracted with Northwest Health Services to test all 2,800 Triumph employees, whether they displayed symptoms or not.

The Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph processes one-and-a-half billion pounds of pork annually. The governor says it’s a key part of the national food chain.

DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams does not support shutting the plant down. He told Capitol reporters in Jefferson City on Thursday that the department is doing what they do in public health, including epidemiology contact tracing, isolating and quarantining.

The DHSS has partnered with St. Joseph health officials, Northwest Health Services and Mosaic Life Care to offer coronavirus testing to all employees and contract staff at Triumph.

Any employees who are still wanting to be tested can do so next week through Northwest Health Services’ mobile testing site.

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