Coronavirus infects North Carolina workers at pick-your-own strawberries farm, forcing closure

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At least eight workers at a pick-your-own strawberries farm in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the Greensboro establishment to temporarily shutter.

Rudd Farm announced the closure on its Facebook page late last week, saying that despite extra health precautions taken amid the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S.  — namely the use of gloves and masks, as well as “implementing a drive-thru service that maintains social distancing recommendations,” the farm said — one of its workers fell sick and later tested positive for the novel virus. Soon after, “several” more workers also tested positive.

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The News & Record, citing the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, reported that there are at least eight positive cases of the virus, all of which have been lab test-confirmed, linked to “on-site housing” for farmworkers.

“Out of an abundance of caution and out of concern for our workers and their families, we are closing our operation to the public at this time. We are devastated, but our top priorities are the safety of our workers, our family, and our customers,” Rudd Farm said on Facebook, noting it has been “reassured by public health and agriculture officials that there is no food safety concern with any berries purchased because COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness.”

It's not clear when the farm will reopen.

It's not clear when the farm will reopen. (iStock)

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The farm switched to a drive-thru pickup service about two weeks ago, though normally offers customers the opportunity to pick the berries themselves. The initiative drew hundreds of cars and sometimes sparked hours-long wait times. Workers wearing gloves and masks would give customers plastic pails of strawberries through their car windows or would load them in trunks, according to the News & Record.

It's not clear when the farm will reopen.

As of Wednesday morning, there were more than 9,000 cases of the novel virus in North Carolina, with some 306 deaths.