Empire Bakery closes temporarily, cites “several” COVID-19 cases

Empire Bakery closes temporarily, cites “several” COVID-19 cases

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An email from Rocky Mount Plant Manager Todd Lockhart said the Weaver Street facility halted production on Thursday, June 25 due to increased cases of COVID-19 in Franklin Country, the Town of Rocky Mount, and several cases in the facility.

“We contacted the Franklin County Department of Health and the Regional Department of Health to coordinate plant wide testing the week of June 28,” Lockhart said. “We are also performing additional enhanced sanitation, as well as specialized third party contact cleaning and disinfecting protocols in this week and next.”

Lockhart gave no indication on how long the closure would last, but said pending testing results they plan to continue production in the “near future.”

The company declined to comment on employee status when asked if they were furloughed or getting paid during the closure.

West Piedmont Population Health Manager Nancy Bell confirmed the outbreak to The Franklin News Post on Friday saying that Empire Foods has been “very responsible” in reporting the outbreak.

“We wish more companies would behave in a similar manner,” Bell said. “Mr. Lockhart contacted us with the first positive case and continues to work with us to ensure that all safety precautions are being taken.”

The bakery produces ready to sell desserts such as cookies, cakes, brownies and cupcakes for retailers nation-wide.

Like many other businesses, in March, the bakery implemented several safety protocols including enhanced sanitation, limiting visitors to the facility, eliminating travel and non-essential in-person meetings, as well as continuing protocols already in place such as mandatory face masks, hand-washing, and nightly deep cleans of equipment.

The bakery closure comes on the heels of the closure of the Old Franklin Turnpike Sheetz store due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, which reopened Friday.

According to the latest data Virginia Department of Health data, Franklin County had 54 confirmed cases but the latest information from the West Piedmont Health District showed six new cases were confirmed on Friday. Among those diagnosed were a teenage male and a teenage female as well as two females in their 20s and two females in their 40s.

Bell was unable to confirm if any of those cases were related to the outbreak at Empire Bakery. 


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