Sussex councilman calls testing poultry workers ‘dumb idea’

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County Councilman Samuel Wilson Jr. has never been afraid to voice his opinion.

Tuesday, he may have ruffled a few feathers, calling coronavirus testing of poultry workers “a dumb idea.”

“I’d like to give my opinion on that,” Mr. Wilson said during the Sussex County Council meeting.

“What’s happening is, by sending all these testers down … running these big numbers up …. what it does, it tells the rest of them to go home. And they are going to have to close the poultry plant before long. That’s a dumb idea in my opinion.”

Samuel Wilson Jr.

“Where did the governor get the bright idea … to test the poultry growers, the poultry workers?” Mr. Wilson asked.

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson offered an explanation.

“The governor, from my perspective, is following the guidelines of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and listening to his medical staff, mostly from the Delaware Department of Public Health as it relates to the screening of the employees within the poultry industry, and using the medical staff of local hospitals …,” said Mr. Lawson. “In summary, he is following the guidelines of the CDC and his public health officials.”

“What is going to happen to the poultry plant? It’s going to have to shut down,” said Mr. Wilson. “They are actually losing millions of dollars because of this dumb idea. They are killing millions of chickens — millions.”

Last week, Save Delmarva Chickens launched a petition drive against the reported depopulation of 2 million chickens on Delmarva.

James Fisher, community manager for Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., the chicken industry’s 1,800-member trade association in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, last week said the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. chicken industry “is becoming more apparent as the disease continues to spread throughout the United States.”

“Reduced employee attendance at chicken processing plants is an issue on Delmarva and across the U.S. during this unusual time. As a result, some of Delmarva’s processing plants are operating below their normal capacity, although other plants are operating normally,” Mr. Fisher said. “Plant capacity can change day to day, depending on attendance, and predicting capacity is difficult. These are extraordinary times, and these are extraordinary situations, and everyone in the chicken community is doing all that we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining a safe food supply.”

As of last week, Mountaire Farms Inc., reported no disruption in production or plans for flock depopulation.

“We have no plans at this time to depopulate any chickens, but we understand that other companies are faced with difficult decisions during this crisis,” said Catherine Bassett, director of Communications and Community Relations for Mountaire Farms Inc.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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