A COVID-19 cluster at the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro was officially closed Wednesday, announced the Wilkes County Health Department.

A COVID-19 cluster is defined as at least five illness onsets or initial positive test results within 14 days and plausible linkage between the cases in a meat processing plant, educational or childcare facility or religious or other large gathering or event.

There have been 612 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Tyson Foods complex since April.

Two 14-day incubation periods, or 28 days, had to pass with no new COVID-19 cases at the Tyson Food complex for the health department to close out the cluster there.

“The Tyson Foods team has been wonderful to work with. Since April we have been able to work together to slow the spread of the virus and implement changes across the plant and complex,” said Wilkes County Health Director Rachel Willard.

“Tyson Foods continues to work hard to ensure the health and safety of their team members and community,” Willard added.

A COVID-19 outbreak refers to two or more lab-confirmed cases in a congregate living setting within a 28-day period.

Willard said COVID-19 cases in Wilkes spiked last week with about 100 new cases. She said most of these cases resulted from community spread, which is when contact tracing can’t determine specifically how people contracted the virus. Willard said many of them resulted from Wilkes residents taking vacations in places where COVID-19 is more widespread

As of Wednesday afternoon, Wilkes County had amassed 854 confirmed COVID-19 cases since  March, with 711 of the 854 recovered. Five Wilkes residents with COVID-19 are hospitalized and 16 deaths of Wilkes residents have been attributed to the virus.

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