Metro COVID-19 spike traced to Kansas City business

200 new positive cases mostly asymptomatic
Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 19:15:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sudden spike of COVID-19 cases in the metro has been traced to company-wide testing at a Kansas City paper products company.

Aspen Paper Products, which makes food service products such as paper plates and bowls, has been open throughout the pandemic.

Earlier this week, the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department announced more than 200 of the company's roughly 600 workers had recently tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday, Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, spoke about 300 new cases reported statewide.

"And the first thing we noticed is that there's an increase in the Kansas City area," Williams said Thursday.

Kansas City Health Department spokeswoman Michelle Pekarsky confirmed Friday that increase was due to the Aspen cases.

Aspen owner Bill Biggins said when more than 20 of his employees had tested positive for the virus, on his own, he decided to have all 600 employees tested.

Working with Truman Medical Centers, Biggins said those employees were tested last Friday and Saturday. The results came in on Sunday: 200 positive tests.

After a few days of delay, state health leaders became aware of that cluster.

Biggins said almost all of the workers who tested positive didn't have any symptoms.

Williams said increased testing, in part, may account for any upticks in new cases, especially in potential hot spots.

"And that's the whole purpose is to identify areas early so we can get a look at them," he said.

Biggins said there's a new plan in place with the Kansas City Health Department to prevent any further spread of the virus. It includes the re-testing of every Aspen worker who's tested negative once a week for the next four weeks.

Biggins pointed out it wasn't very long ago when he couldn't have done company-wide testing.

After a quarantine period, he expects some of his workers will be coming back to Aspen next week.

KCMO officials provide updates on coronavirus numbers and testing sites in Kansas City. 41 Action News also is analyzing the data for the metro, as well as for Kansas and Missouri.