ONTARIO – Fry Foods shut down its Ontario plant late last week as rumors swirled that two employees were sick with COVID-19.
The food processing plant at 602 Stanton Boulevard in Ontario closed Thursday night and announced mandatory testing for employees Friday, according to Douglas Wold, Oregon/Idaho Fry Foods human resources manager.
The move came days after the company’s Weiser plant shut down a week ago following an outbreak of the infection.
Roughly 280 employees work at the plant in Ontario, which specializes in onion rings, cheese sticks and other appetizer items.
Wold said the company worked with the statewide Crush the Curve campaign in Idaho to set up drive-thru testing at Fry Foods’ plant in Weiser. They tested about 229 employees from the Ontario plant at the site in Idaho. Remaining employees got tested on their own.
As of Monday, Wold had not gotten confirmation from any employee or the Malheur County Health Department of any confirmed positive cases linked to the Ontario plant but about a dozen negative test results had trickled in. Results are expected by Tuesday afternoon.
The company decided to shut down after word-of-mouth spread Thursday as employees shared that two workers who had not been coming in were in fact sick with COVID-19.
Fry Foods voluntarily shut down its Weiser plant May 10 after it was notified of eight employees who had tested positive.
Southwest District Health confirmed that the cases in Idaho were linked to a social gathering attended by the company’s employees. Several of the employees are also part of a family unit with confirmed cases, said Katrina Williams, a spokesperson for the agency.
The Weiser plant reopened partially Monday morning.
“We are running a small crew in Weiser, just the people that we confirmed negative and we confirmed have not had contact with anybody that's tested positive,” Wold said.
That will be the plan for Ontario, he added.
If he's able to track and trace positive cases, Wold said he expects the plant may partially reopen as soon as Wednesday.
Wold said the company has some funding in place and securing additional funds to mitigate any effect on employee lost wages.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to minimize or alleviate lost wages for employees,” Wold said.
“Fry Foods offered to pay the area clinics and hospitals for every employee,” Wold said of the testing costs. He said local clinics and hospitals shut him down and refused to test people who were asymptomatic.
SUBSCRIBE - $5 a month, automatically.
DONATE - to provide additional support. You can also mail a check: Malheur Enterprise, PO Box 310 Vale OR 97918. Donor identities are confidential unless the donor specifies otherwise. Thank you!