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COVID-19 cases jumped by 198 in the Bear River Health District on Friday, mostly in Cache County, and for the first time health officials confirmed many of those cases are from a local meat plant.

Which meat plant was not specified.

“Many of these are tied to an ongoing outbreak that is being investigated at a local meat processing industry,” a BRHD press release stated. “The spike in the numbers comes after mass testing events held over the past week where 1,300 tests were completed. The first results of these tests came in late Thursday evening, due to a delay from state and private labs in their ability to run the tests. The delay in testing may result in an increase in positive cases in the coming week.”

The announcement followed a notice from the Utah Health Department reporting 439 new cases on Friday in Utah. At that time, the state noted a third of the new cases were from the Bear River area.

With the surge in cases, BRHD has recruited help from other agencies, including the National Guard and Centers for Disease Control, to do contract tracing, case investigations and other technical support. The CDC team will be stationed at the Bear River Health Department in Logan.

“We plead with you to maintain physical distancing when possible, wear a face covering when physical distancing is difficult, stay home when you are sick, and wash your hands often,” said BRHD Director Lloyd Berentzen. “We appreciate all our communities have done and the sacrifices they have made.”

The department is reporting only 14 hospitalizations due to the disease during the course of the pandemic; state epidemiologist Angela Dunn, however, has in recent days warned that hospitalizations are an indicator that usually lag behind leading metrics like case confirmations.

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