The Magic Valley is a region in south-central Idaho where COVID-19 has made its way into many food processing facilities, says data from the South Central Public Health District.
Food processors around the country have struggled to keep COVID-19 from sweeping through their workforces. There have been a lot of cases at potato processors. Rite Stuff Foods in Jerome has had 70 cases, Idahoan Foods in Rupert has an ongoing case and Magic Valley Growers in Wendell has had 17 cases, one of which is being monitored. McCain Foods in Burley has had 17 cases as of Tuesday. The company has a number of ongoing cases and is doing extensive testing according to South Central Public Health District spokeswoman Brianna Bodily.
Food processors haven’t only had to deal with outbreaks. Many of them have lost large portions of their markets. Some Magic Valley food processors have closed at one point during the pandemic, either due to COVID-19 outbreaks or dramatically reduced demand for products.
Idaho’s potato industry experienced many of the same problems as dairy. When restaurants closed, the demand for spuds tanked. Darek Frye, senior director of manufacturing for McCain Foods, said in an email that the company’s Burley plant closed for about a week in May. There were some furloughs, but Burley employees have returned to work, Frye said.