International glass manufacturer Viracon closed its Owatonna plant for two days recently for deep cleaning after an outbreak related to COVID-19, according to a story in the Star Tribune. The report indicates more than 80 employees were quarantined on paid leave following contact-tracing. Some of those individuals have returned to work.

Vice president of investor relations for parent company Apogee Enterprises told the Star Tribune, "In recent weeks there has been an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the communities surrounding our Viracon factory in Owatonna, and in our workforce which comes from those communities."

He added that the company began taking precautions when it learned of positive virus tests in Owatonna. That includes temperature screenings, health interviews, and extra cleaning. Anyone who had contact with a known case was put on mandatory quarantine.

"We have contact-traced all employees with symptoms and based on employee interviews, we do not believe the virus is being transmitted at Viracon." The company said it is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for cleaning.

With that many employees affected, the outbreak is the fourth largest at a Minnesota manufacturer, behind hot spots at meat processing facilities in Worthington, Willmar and Cold Spring.

Public Health Director for Steele and Dodge Counties Amy Caron told the Owatonna People's Press, "Obviously I am concerned about it. Any kind of spike in our community has us concerned, and obviously some of these employees live outside of the county."

"We are seeing a number of household members of employees testing positive, but that is not surprising. That is one of the reasons why our number is going up, but Mayo Clinic is also doing more widespread testing." Steele County's positive test total for COVID-19 stood at 115 as of Tuesday morning.

Viracon provides glass fabrication for world-wide construction, and provided glass for US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The Owatonna company, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary employs approximately 1,500 people. Viracon spokesman Jeffrey Matthews told the Star Tribune that employees are naturally spread out while at work.

Caron also told the paper of an outbreak at an apartment complex in Owatonna and that state health officials are bringing in food and medicine in that case. A positive COVID-19 test hit Daikin Applied several weeks ago.


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