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Strike teams armor Idaho ag and mining workers against COVID-19

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KIFI
An employee of Bayer in Soda Springs gets his Covid-19 vaccine while at work on Monday.

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho (KIFI) - Idaho's agriculture and mining industries are protecting themselves against the coronavirus.

On Monday, Southeast Idaho Public Health sent a "strike team" to the Bayer phosphate plant in Soda Springs to vaccinate employees against COVID-19.

This is one of multiple strike missions the health office has been conducting since the priority groups for agriculture and manufacturing workers became eligible for shots.

Workplaces like Amy's Kitchen, Stoddard Farms, Gibbs Farms and Trailswest have also taken advantage of SIPH's ability to administer shots on site, according to a SIPH spokesperson.

Roger Gibson, site manager for Bayer, said about 60 employees signed up to get a dose of the vaccine during SIPH's two visits to the plant, just about a third of the plant's essential employees.

"Not everybody chose to do it at this time, but we'll make it available in the future if we have more people interested," Gibson said.

At the start of the pandemic, Bayer put strict safety precautions in place at their plants all around the world. Only essential employees have been allowed at the Soda Springs site for the past year.

"All those steps have been successful. We've not had any cases of transmission inside our plant or inside most of the other plants around the world for Bayer," Gibson said.

About 400 employees and 400 full-time contractors work at the two Soda Springs sites. Other than some employees catching COVID-19 in the community and having to self isolate, the plant had no major interruptions to their operations.

But despite more employees becoming protected against the coronavirus, Gibson said he doesn't expect things to return to normal right away.

"We're going to continue doing the things we've done to keep everybody safe until enough people get the shot, that there's a decision made, probably nation-wide, that it's safe to go back to more normal practices," Gibson said.

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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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