Café Valley is opening an investigation into a reported case of COVID-19 at the factory, according to General Manager Paul Dash.
“We did have the confirmed case,” Dash said in the interview with the Chronicle-Tribune Tuesday. “It was one of our maintenance employees.”
Although Grant County Department of Health Officer William David Moore said that he’s not aware of any cases within Café Valley as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dash said that the company received word from an employee’s family about a positive test result.
The company hasn’t received a verified confirmation from the CDC or health department, Dash says.
Dash said the company became aware on Sunday and conducted a “forensic analysis” of the employee’s schedule and who they might have come in contact with.
Although nobody who came in contact with the person has exhibited symptoms, according to Dash, he said all of the maintenance staff had the option to self quarantine for 14 days.
Dash said the company has created protocol to allow people to take 72-hour or 14-day quarantines during the pandemic. Those people who take the 14-day quarantine won’t face penalties from the company, HR Department representative Sonja Haywood said.
For people who can work at home, Dash says the company is letting them.
“The bottom line is we’re letting people do what they feel that they need to do. We’re not forcing anybody to be here,” Dash said.
Right now, at least 100 employees have voluntarily chosen to self-quarantine for 14 days, Dash says.
“A bunch more are out on 72-hour quarantine,” he said.
According to Dash, employees are cleaning and sanitizing common surfaces like doorknobs, phones, desks, restrooms, etc. every hour, among other measures.
“Our cake and muffin lines are cleaned everyday, sanitized front to back. We are following our protocols... We are doing microsanatizing on the croissant lines as its running, and then when we shut down, we do a deep clean. If anybody is suspected of being sick, then we shut down and clean as well,” Dash said. “It’s all about clean, clean, clean.”
Along with sanitizing, Dash said employees use a designated entrance where they are screened for 15 of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including having their temperature taken.
Dash said anyone who exhibits two or more symptoms is turned away.
If an employee is exhibiting only one symptom, Dash said an HR representative talks with the employee to evaluate the situation. Dash thanked employees for staying home if they are feeling ill.
The added protocols also include staggering shifts, designated break rooms, designated exits and slowing production lines slightly to help allow more distance between employees, according to Dash.
“We’re constantly talking to them about separation, separation, separation ... hand washing nonstop, constant glove changes... The fundamentals are what we’re driving everyday,” Dash said.
When it comes to personal protective equipment for employees, Dash said they, like other companies, are in need of face masks.
Dash said he meets with an executive team to talk about COVID-19 related issues twice a day, and they are currently looking into a way to provide face masks.
“That’s the help we need, getting face masks,” Dash said. “Once we can get those, we will supply them.”
While the company’s production has declined a bit, Dash said they’ve seen an increase in orders.
Dash said there’s always the possibility that the company will have to temporarily close, but he said they are determined to do all they can to keep contributing to the nation’s food supply.
“That’s why we feel duty bound to help keep our national food supply going forward” Dash said.
“There are people out there yelling, why don’t you shut down... If all of the food places got the pressure that we are getting... this country would come down to its knees. Imagine what it’s like when food runs out. That is a real problem for the country... Everybody needs to balance this. We need to keep food on the shelves.”
Haywood said that the company is working with its employees to make them comfortable about the situation, stating that taking time to quarantine won’t hurt them.
“Their job is protected,” Haywood said. “At the end of the day, we want to keep everyone safe, that’s our primary goal. … We’re really trying to make it a good situation for the employees as well as the company.”
Dash said he’d like to thank Café Valley employees for taking care of themselves and working hard to help keep the food supply going.
Moore said the county health department will work with the company to investigate if the CDC or state health department does confirm a case.
“We will be getting increased ability to test in our community … It’s getting better, and by a week or so from now, hopefully it will be significantly better,” Moore said.