COVID-19 outbreak on Champaign County farm illustrates national trend of virus spreading to rural America

URBANA — The Champaign Health District said on Tuesday that six more employees at Michael Farms have tested positive for COVID-19.

The farm is the site of the first major outbreak in county.

>> RELATED: Coronavirus: Outbreak reported at Michael Farms in Urbana

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Prior to, Champaign County was under the 100 total case threshold, but Health Commissioner Gabe Jones told News Center 7′s Jenna Lawson that trends he’s seen lately are concerning.

“Whereas the last few weeks we’ve been averaging 0 to one cases a day, now we’re averaging about five or six cases per day,” he said.

The outbreak is also a sign of the bigger picture, as the virus moves into rural areas around America.

“It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN earlier this week.

The Champaign Health District said they were originally alerted to the outbreak at Michael Farms from the State of Ohio. The health district said Michael’s contacted the state with their own concerns, and the health district had been working with the farm prior to the outbreak to put precautionary measures in place.

Once the health district got involved, widespread testing was done.

86 employees were tested at the farm – 33 of which tested positive by Monday, but now the health district said that number is up to 39 employees.

The health district said the spread appears to be limited to employees who live on the farm, and the risk to customers who have recently visited Michael’s is low.

The Champaign Health District will be doing more testing at the farm on Wednesday evening and asks that anyone who has had contact with an employee who has tested positive to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

The health commissioner also encouraged Champaign County residents, “now more than ever,” to practice social distancing, mask wearing and good hygiene habits.