Potential COVID-19 cluster at STX Beef has leaders worried

Posted at 5:39 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 19:51:38-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A spike in COVID-19 cases at STX Beef has many concerned that the Coastal Bend region will see a similar spike.

With at least 10 cases of the novel coronavirus among its employees confirmed in less than a week, there is growing concern about STX Beef's potential to spread the illness.

At least one city leader believes the plant could have serious consequences for Nueces County’s numbers.

“We’ve had a pass so far,” said District 4 City Council Member Greg Smith.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, Nueces county had the fourth-lowest infection rate in Texas as of May 9. In comparison, on May 6, it was second-lowest.

“All of our cases, to date, have been one here, couple there; we have had no outbreak at all,” Smith said.

The infection rate increase already had Smith concerned. His concerns now are compounded by a potential cluster at STX Beef.

“We may be looking at an outbreak -- we’ll know in the next day or two when we get the test results back in,” he said.

The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District said it is watching the situation, and is working with STX Beef. Health Director Annette Rodriguez said the processing plant is an essential business, and there’s no infection rate at which it is mandated to shut it down.

However, Smith warns similar plants around the country have had 15 percent-to-20 percent of employees test positive. That would more than double our current case count almost overnight.

“There’s between 700-800 people at South Texas Beef, it’s one of the larger employers in this city,” said Smith.

STX Beef started testing every employee for the coronavirus over the weekend. A company spokesperson wouldn’t divulge numbers, but said say that testing is ongoing.