A day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations were below 1,000 for the first time since March, a New York-based aluminum extrusions provider found itself under the eye of scrutiny after its employees were identified as a possible source for one of the state’s latest clusters. Governor Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Health’s contact tracing program and local health department officials back-tracked a recent outbreak to employees of Keymark Corp., among whom 38 cases stemmed from human-to-human contact. Meanwhile, “Around 95% of the people who came back positive were asymptomatic,” said Keymark’s president William Keller III. The same company owns window manufacturer Kason and Keller Inc., where Keller confirmed there were no known cases.
The state’s strategy since reopening has been to test, trace and isolate, Cuomo added that, “we have good news that our strategy and our contact tracing system is working.” The spread among Keymark employees was linked to a nearby apple packaging plant, where, according to state officials, out of 179 employees, 82 tested positive. Contact tracing revealed that several employees of the apple packaging plant may have contributed to cases at Keymark. Both locations were responsible for creating small upticks, Cuomo said, but were identified quickly, allowing state officials to prevent further spread.
Isolation and quarantine measures were established for those involved, many of whom, “lived together, travel and worked together, socialized together,” Montgomery County executive Matthew Ossenfort told CBS6 News WRGB Albany. “That’s where you can have these outbreaks, or clusters I should say, where you see multiple cases. I would attribute it more to that than anything else,” Ossenfort added. Of the 44 people who tested positive, the company contact-traced to another 75 individuals, said Keller, placing around 100 employees out of work for 10 days to two weeks. But the issue wasn’t social circles or cohabitation, he suggested. Rather, “The primary area where we identified there could be contamination was in carpooling,” he said. With the majority of those infected hailing from a single community, most ride-share. Policies have since been established prohibiting those practices at Keymark, Keller explained, as the company works to establish bus services for its employees. The factory operates on a 24-hour basis across four shifts and has since reopened, aiming to return to full capacity. The majority of COVID-19 cases were identified among one building and a single shift and there was some cross contamination, “But not a lot,” Keller said, as buildings are cleaned and sanitized for 30 minutes between shifts. In all, 500 employees were tested, he said, via operations established at Keymark’s plant in Montgomery County, as well as in Utica for employees not scheduled to work.
“Everyone who tested positive and everyone who was quarantined due to contact tracing is now eligible to return to work,” Keller said.
New York officials cite the contact tracing system used to locate Keymark for decreasing COVID-19-related hospitalizations from a peak of 18,825 on April 12 to less than a thousand in recent weeks.