Sunsweet, one of the Yuba-Sutter area’s biggest employers, halted operations out of its global headquarters in Yuba City through Sunday after two of its administrative employees recently tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Yuba City facility is the world’s largest dried tree fruit processing plant. In a time where federal and state governments are urging domestic food and beverage industries to continue providing products to grocers to maintain public availability during the public health emergency, the company made the decision to close its facility over the weekend for cleaning to ensure the health and safety of workers and that long-term production can continue, said Harold Schenker, general counsel for Sunsweet Growers Inc.

“Though the two Yuba City cases involve administrative employees not engaged on or near production lines, Sunsweet has decided to completely restrict all administrative and production activities at its Yuba City processing plant for the next three days to allow an additional deep cleaning and disinfecting of all offices, common areas and operational facilities, and to implement additional time and space buffers for production teams,” Schenker said. “The Yuba City plant is scheduled to begin limited processing and distribution again on Monday, March 30.”

Sutter County, where Sunsweet is located, reported its first two confirmed cases on March 25. As of Friday, the Yuba-Sutter area had five confirmed cases of COVID-19. Another case was reported Friday in Colusa County.

Sunsweet notified its plant workers on March 26 that one of its employees had tested positive for the virus and that all individuals who had come into direct contact with the individual had been notified and were either self-monitoring or self-isolating for two weeks.

On Friday, Schenker said that both employees who had tested positive were under doctors’ care. He said Sunsweet has been in contact with the Sutter County Department of Health and continue to take steps to protect its employees with manufacturing processes and safety procedures that meet or exceed CDC and FDA guidelines.

“While Sunsweet consistently exceeds food safety standards, increasingly stringent actions to minimize risk of person-to-person spread of COVID-19 within Sunsweet facilities have been deployed,” Schenker said. “Sunsweet will continue to enhance these actions as it is informed by updated health guidance, experience and its employee suggestions.”

Approximately 620 employees work at the Sunsweet processing plant, according to the most recent figures collected by the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corporation.

Each day, an average of 40,000 cases of Sunsweet products are sealed and marked for worldwide distribution at the processing plant in Yuba City, according to company’s website. The facility first opened in 1975 and was expanded to 1.2 million square feet in 1994.

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