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Jones & Church reporting 10 COVID-19 cases

From Staff Reports

Another of Unicoi County’s agricultural companies is reporting COVID-19 cases in its workforce.

In a press release sent Saturday morning, Jones & Church Farms Inc. announced that 10 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases were found during voluntary testing of the company’s 110 employees.

According to the press release, the 10 employees testing positive for COVID-19 worked within the same 15 member field crew and arrived on the farm on April 11. The 10 employees have reportedly been isolated and will quarantine for 14 days per CDC guidelines. The company also reported that its facilities and equipment are being cleaned and sanitized as advised by the local health department.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members. We are working closely with the Northeast Regional Health Office to manage the impact of this illness on our team members, their families and our communities,” said Renea Jones Rogers, food safety director for Jones & Church Farms, Inc. “We encourage everyone to continue social distancing and protective measures in an effort to keep our community safe.” 

“We will continue to work hard as we have for the last 45 years providing a high-quality and safe product for our customers,” Greg Church, farm manager for Jones & Church Farms said. 

The farm is still in the planting stage of its operation and will not be harvesting tomatoes for several weeks.

Jones & Church Farms team members are receiving daily clinical symptom screenings, in addition to a host of protective steps Jones & Church Farms has put in place in accordance with CDC and Department of Health guidance for preventing COVID-19, according to the company. These include temperature checks for all team members before every shift, providing protective face masks to all team members and a range of social distancing measures.

According to the FDA, “There is no evidence of food being associated with transmission of COVID-19. If you are concerned about contamination of food or food packaging, wash your hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from the packaging, before you prepare food for eating and before you eat.” 

CDC guidelines state to “clean fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking, unless the package says the contents have been washed.”

Scott’s Farms, which is also located in Unicoi County, announced last week that 38 of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Saturday morning, the Tennesse Department of Health is reporting 49 COVID-19 cases in Unicoi County. Of that number, seven are listed as recovered.