Frito-Lay confirmed Tuesday that it had temporarily closed its manufacturing and distribution facility in Vancouver’s Fruit Valley neighborhood due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the plant’s staff.
Clark County Public Health is aware of 17 confirmed cases among employees at the snack factory, according to Public Information Officer Marissa Armstrong. The first worker tested positive Oct. 29. Frito-Lay confirmed that multiple employees had tested positive, although it did not list a specific number.
“We can confirm that a limited number of employees at our Vancouver, Wash., Frito-Lay facility have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 14 days,” the company wrote in an e-mailed statement.
The employees in question are being quarantined and have been advised to seek medical attention. The company said it has also worked to notify individuals who had direct contact with those employees and advised them to self-quarantine.
The company described the decision to close the Vancouver plant as “a precautionary measure and in partnership with the Clark County Health Department,” and said that the plant would be sanitized during the closure “based on CDC guidelines and using EPA-approved registered products for COVID-19.”
The Vancouver plant ceased operations Nov. 25, Armstrong said. In a follow-up e-mail, Frito-Lay stated that the sanitation process had been completed and the plant would resume limited operations Tuesday evening. The inventory disruption is not expected to significantly impact customers or consumers, the company added.
Frito-Lay said it has been enforcing safety measures including conducting symptom screenings and temperature checks while providing personal protective equipment for employees.
The Vancouver plant opened in 1972 and has undergone multiple expansions. As of 2012, the plant employed 480 workers and produced about 350 million bags of snack foods per year for distribution in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and parts of Canada.
The Vancouver plant is one of more than 30 Frito-Lay manufacturing facilities in North America, along with more than 200 distribution centers. The company is headquartered in Plano, Texas, and is a subsidiary of PepsiCo, producing snack foods such as Cheetos, Doritos and Rold Gold pretzels.
The Frito-Lay plant isn’t the first local manufacturing center to suffer an outbreak; frozen fruit processing company Firestone Pacific Foods, also located in the Fruit Valley neighborhood, temporarily shut down in late May after dozens of employees tested positive for the virus.
Clark County Public Health ultimately identified 132 cases linked to that outbreak.
The outbreak at the Frito-Lay plant comes at a time when Clark County is grappling with a large spike in cases of the novel coronavirus, mirroring a nationwide upward trend.
Nine new COVID-19 deaths were reported Tuesday, bringing the county’s total pandemic death toll to 100 and its case total to 8,908 to date.