Health officials working with Apopka spice manufacturer after worker tests positive for COVID-19

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County is working closely with an Apopka business, conducting contact tracing of employees, after one of their workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Manufacturing at that El Chilar facility is on hold. A spokesperson for the Mexican spice and snack company tells FOX 35 News that they temporarily shut down operations “out of an abundance of caution.” The spokesperson confirmed that two workers have died since the temporary shutdown began. 

Sister Ann Kendrick, of the Hope CommUnity Center, provides resources for immigrant workers. She tells FOX 35 News that she has been fielding phone calls from some of El Chilar’s workers over the last month.

“I got probably about three or four phone calls. A couple of theme several times,” she said.  “The workers I spoke to reported a lot of people were sick and exposed, felt that there was danger, that there were people infected and not everybody knew.”

Professor Larry Barton, who teaches Public Safety and Crisis Management at the University of Central Florida, says this pandemic is leaving employers in an awkward situation. 

“Your lawyers may be telling you that you have an obligation to inform, then you’ve got HR that’s probably telling you cannot mention even where the person works in the factory or office building because you might be identifying the person indirectly. So there is massive confusion for employers today,” Barton said. 

He added that this is particularly an issue in factories and food processing facilities where employees have to work closely together. 

“The average for most factory workers is about 3 feet in between them and the next person. Even a person that’s wearing PPE, they could have the most advanced mask available but reality is it’s still only three feet away,” Barton said.  

He also told FOX 35 News that because COVID-19 is so contagious, he has been advising the companies that he consults, if one of your employees gets sick to follow "The Golden Rule."