All 350 employees from Prairie Industries being tested for COVID-19

Two workers brought in the virus from Allamakee County on April 24, officials say

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. (WKBT) – The Wisconsin Army National Guard is testing all 350 employees from a local manufacturing company for the coronavirus.

Prairie Industries in Prairie du Chien is experiencing a potential outbreak after two workers tested positive for the virus at one of its facilities April 24.

Before anyone contracted the coronavirus at Prairie Industries, president Jeff Panka says the manufacturer was already putting extra safety measures in place.

“We’ve implemented employees on each shift that do nothing but clean touch points, and clean between breaks, and clean between everything,” Panka said.

But officials say two workers from Allamakee County brought the virus with them to the company’s north site, and it has been spreading ever since.

“As of this morning, we have nine cases that we know of,” Panka said.

Crawford County Public Health officer Cindy Riniker says the department is keeping a close eye on a potential outbreak.

“They’ve all kinda popped up since May 1, so yeah, we really wanna watch it,” Riniker said.

Concerns about an outbreak forced all facilities to temporarily close, and the county’s health department called in the Wisconsin Army National Guard to help test the workers.

“The way the test happens is that they come up to the lane, and we have three individuals there,” Wisconsin Army National Guard Maj. Roger Lovelace said. “One medic who does the actual taking of the swab, a chemical specialist to make sure nobody’s contaminating themselves or the specimen, and we have a runner…It takes usually about 2-3 minutes per car.”

Crawford County Sheriff’s Department public information officer Marc Myhre says department staff is working closely together with other organizations inside and outside Crawford County to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve seen with other counties where they don’t work so well together, where there’s a fight, a power struggle,” Myhre said. “So, that’s the last thing we wanna see. We want to be able to work fluidly through these situations.”

Panka says if test results show the coronavirus is not spreading any further, the plant could re-open next week.