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25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Joseph county tied to Iceberg Enterprises plant in Sturgis

Posted at 3:33 PM, May 15, 2020

STURGIS, Mich. — Rebecca Burns, the Health Officer at the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ), has confirmed with FOX 17 that an outbreak of COVID-19 at a manufacturing facility in Sturgis is tied to what she called a “significant increase” in cases of the virus in St. Joseph County.

The facility has been confirmed to be the Iceberg Enterprises plant in Sturgis, Mich.

As businesses in Michigan have continued to provide critically needed supplies for our economy during the COVID-19 crisis, Iceberg Enterprises has put plans in place to protect their workers and has shared their experience with COVID-19 and what they have done to adapt with the workers at the plant

Burns revealed that information to St. Joseph County commissioners during Wednesday’s executive committee meeting. As of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there have been a total of 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Joseph County. There have been six more confirmed cases in the county as of Friday afternoon.

At the end of April, according to BHSJ, St. Joseph County COVID-19 cases were at 32.

Burns told commissioners that through interviews with those affected at Iceberg Enterprises, Burns said some of them believed COVID-19 was a “government conspiracy.”

“When our nurses have spoken with individuals involved with that outbreak, it appears we have some who believed that the coronavirus is a government conspiracy and they don’t believe it’s real, so they’re not taking steps to social distance and be careful and cautious,” Burns said. “Unfortunately, individuals have gone to work contagious and spread it to others and a significant number that work there have contracted it and brought it home.”

Burns said in an email Wednesday evening that 25 of the county's 76 cases are tied to the facility. However, she did not specify the specific facility that was being affected.

Burns said testing is still “limited” in the county.

“It is possible that you might be able to if you had an exposure and talk to your personal physician about that,” Burns said, adding local hospitals, Covered Bridge Healthcare and Revolution Health are conducting testing.

Burns said Michigan recently received a FEMA shipment of cotton swabs and viral mediums and are working on packaging and sending them to local health departments.