MARHSALL, MO (KCTV) – One of Missouri's rural COVID-19 hotspots is also one an important hub for food production.
The town of Marshall in Saline County is home to large food processing facilities like Conagra and Cargill. That county also has one of the highest per-capita rates of infection in the state, with outbreaks occurring at both plants.
In Marshall, Fitzgibbon Hospital is at the forefront of a health crisis. CEO Angy Littrell said the hospital has tested around 1,500 people in the past few weeks.
“We, as a sole community hospital in rural Missouri, have a dedication to our community,” Littrell explained.
Saline and neighboring Moniteau County have each seen more than 140 known positive cases of coronavirus, including a cluster at Conagra, which shut last week as a result.
“They have a lot of employees that work in close proximity with one another,” Littrell said. “They're responsible for a significant amount of production in the area.”
Conagra and Katy Trail Health also set up a drive-through site Friday at a production facility, screening employees who want to return to the plant when it reopens next week.
The hospital has also tested dozens of workers at Conagra and other area businesses.
“We've worked really hard to expedite results for them so that they are able to understand when they can put folks back to work.”
Workers at the food processing plants, like Alex Arnold, say they are ready to get back on the job.
“I got tested for the COVID-19 so I can get back to work,” Arnold told KCTV5 News. “I'm bored sitting around.”
The county plans to start mass testing at a public location, too, with officials adding that next week they'll have 400 kits ready to go.
Employees at food processors have been among the hardest hit by the virus nationwide, and with the help of the workers at the hospital, they will soon be back on the task of feeding America.
“We have an amazing team,” Littrell said. “They have put in hours and hours and they're on the very frontline.”
The front line of a crisis in their own community.