Hesston AGCO facility's COVID-19 outbreak reaches into five counties

Chad Frey
The Kansan

On March 2, the Harvey County Health Department, in conjunction with AGCO Corporation, confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the AGCO facility in Hesston.

The individuals who tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 were from Harvey, Reno, McPherson, Marion and Sedgwick counties. 

"AGCO is a large employer, and they have employees from other counties," said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. "We have been in touch with those county health departments to have them mark those individuals as part of our outbreak. We will monitor that for 28 days after we get that last case is identified."

Redington said it is unknown at this time if the last case has been identified. 

This week Redington announced the case numbers have increased to 17 people, up from 14 in the initial round of testing. 

AGCO has increased testing on site and on Tuesday sent a letter to employees notifying them they are eligible for vaccination. The company encouraged employees to sign up online for vaccination at Hesston Pharmacy. 

Those doses of vaccine are provided to the pharmacy via a federal vaccine distribution program.

The individuals were identified through continued precautionary COVID-19 testing implemented by AGCO. AGCO conducts on-site antigen testing of employees as needed for contact tracing and to reduce asymptomatic spread.

“Our priority throughout the pandemic has been the health and safety of our employees, suppliers and customers. The employees that have tested positive have mild or no symptoms at this time, and we wish them good health as they recover and complete their isolation,” said Seth Beytien, AGCO Hesston site leader. “Our on-site COVID-19 testing is helping us ensure a safe work environment at AGCO. While a cluster is undesirable and preventative measures are taken, our onsite COVID-19 positivity rate remains lower than the county and state statistics.”

AGCO has had additional health precautions in place for several months, including increased availability of COVID-19 testing, routine daily disinfecting, mandatory masks regardless of ability to social distance, and continued COVID-19 education.

The cluster will be considered active until there are 28 consecutive days — two incubation periods — without positive cases. Employees will be included in the COVID-19 case counts of their respective county of residence.

For Harvey County, there are currently 74 active COVID-19 cases. Since the pandemic began, 14.271 individuals have been tested in the county with 28,993 tests given. The county has a waiting list of 1,400 people for vaccines, namely people 65 and older.

Harvey County announced the availablity of vaccines to manufacturing workers this week. The health department has given more than 3,655 COVID-19 vaccination shots since vaccine became available in December.