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Outbreak in COVID-19 cases forces shutdown of Rochelle Foods plant

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — As of Monday, Rochelle Foods was shut down due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in its employees.

"I just did a facility inspection about an hour ago and they are closed," says Ogle County Public Health Administrator Kyle Auman. "We started to see more and more cases coming in and by last Friday we had more than doubled our cases in a week. Which raised concern and led me to believe we didn't have this outbreak under control."

Rochelle Foods produces a variety of products for Hormel Foods. Auman says the outbreak is responsible for roughly half of Ogle County's cases.

"We have 59 cases. More than 29 of those cases are linked to Rochelle Foods. We also have cases that are contacts, so yes I think a lot of our cases are coming from this outbreak."

Auman says the plant shutdown allows for the plant to clean the facility and for officials to come up with a mass testing plan for employees.

"We'll be coming up with a comprehensive testing plan hopefully that we can start executing this week."

The department is also working to better educate employees and the entire county about the dangers of the virus and how to better keep the community safe.

"It's a large Spanish speaking population so we're working on messaging for employees and others in the community."

So while this stop in production could have some worried about its economic impact the health department says it can't be too careful about the safety of the community.

"I've got an obligation to Ogle County to ensure their safety and health is well."

Hormel Foods released the following statement Friday night:

"Rochelle Foods was issued a notice of closure from the local health department on April 17. We are working to further understand the closure order and are consulting with our legal counsel to understand next steps. We have decided to voluntarily close our facility to ensure a broader understanding of COVID-19 in the Rochelle community, Ogle county and the impact on our operations. Rochelle Foods team members will continue to be paid during the closure."

Hormel Foods

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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