GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp says new cases of COVID-19 among northeast Georgia poultry workers have dropped 75 percent over the last two weeks.
Kemp said during a visit to Gainesville that community leaders and residents responded to guidance from their employers and health workers, in an effort to curb North Georgia's worst outbreak in Hall County.
Immigrant communities drive much of the labor in Hall County's chicken processing industry. On Friday, Kemp visited Fieldale Farms, a chicken processor that has 800 workers and has managed 17 cases of COVID-19.
"We have paid each individual in our company who has tested positive to stay home for the full 14 days, plus 72 hours," said John Wright, vice president of operations at the Fieldale plant in Gainesville.
Gainesville's outbreak was not as prevalent as it is in some southwest Georgia counties, but Hall County is north Georgia’s biggest COVID-19 hotspot, with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 population, according to figures posted by the state's Department of Public Health.
In comparison, neighboring Gwinnett County's infection rate is about one-quarter of Hall County's.
When Kemp visited Fieldale, he had to get his temperature checked before he was allowed inside.
The governor also visited Gainesville's Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where an expansion of the Emergency Room has been in place for several weeks.
"I think the hotspot happened here like it can in any community before people really knew how fast the community spread was," Kemp said.
In addition, Kemp visited a shopping center where Hall County and community leaders set up a day-long site for drive-through testing, which stayed busy for much of the day Friday.
"This is stopping here, people. We are taking charge," said Norma Hernandez, one of the site's organizers.
Community leaders say poultry plant workers are adapting some of the procedures new used in many plants to prevent the spread of the virus for their homes.
That includes rigorous handwashing, use of sanitizing gel, and separating people who are not family members.
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