Vermont reports 33 new virus cases; 26 linked to worker outbreak at Champlain Orchards

Local News

SHOREHAM, Vt. – The Vermont Department of Health reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, most of them linked to an outbreak at an apple orchard in Addison County.

More than two dozen seasonal employees from Jamaica working at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham have tested positive. The first case was detected last week. All employees were tested on Saturday and again on Monday. A third round of testing is scheduled for Friday.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said a majority of the 26 employees who tested positive are asymptomatic.

“Our teams quickly began our work to provide health and isolation guidance as appropriate and to trace contacts,” Dr. Levine said. “We’ve been working closely with the owner of the orchards and the Vermont Department of Agriculture in our investigation.”

Dr. Levine emphasized that as of Monday afternoon, the outbreak appears to be isolated to the the orchard, which has been closed since that first positive case last week.

“There is no known risk to the public,” Dr. Levine said. “It is also safe to eat apples and other products that were grown or produced by the orchard. If you’ve been apple picking the last couple weeks or visited the farmstand, you are not at risk either.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patsy Kelso said contact tracing is essentially complete. She said officials are confident the community isn’t at risk because of the rapid and extensive response by the health department, the agency of agriculture and the owner of Champlain Orchards. Dr. Kelso added that it was important to be at the orchard and see how operations are run.

“Based on all the information we gathered, we’ve determined there’s no chance we identified that a member of the public who either went to a pick-your-own event at this orchard or visited the retail section could’ve had close contact with someone who is a case,” Dr. Kelso said.

The employees are part of an H-2A program THAT allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. They flew in from Jamaica to JFK International Airport, and traveled by charter bus to the orchard. They were in their 14 day quarantine period when the outbreak occured.

In total, 33 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Vermont on Monday. It marked the highest daily case total since June 3. Seven of the cases were unrelated to the Champlain Orchards outbreak.

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