Positive Case Concerns

OMAHA (DTN) -- Reflecting that COVID-19 can strike anyone almost anywhere, a spokesperson for the American Farm Bureau Federation shared news Wednesday that the group's national president, Georgia farmer Zippy Duvall, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Duvall was experiencing fever and cough systems when he was tested. "He is at home in quarantine and, on the bright side, feeling strong and in good spirits," said Terri Moore, AFBF's vice president of communications.

Duvall, 64, had one official event in recent weeks, a rural broadband announcement on June 25 that included U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as speakers. Images from the event show Duvall and others mostly wearing masks unless they were speaking at the lectern. The hosts of that event and others Duvall has been in contact with over the past two weeks have been notified, or AFBF is in the process of notifying them.

Moore stated in an email that Duvall has been working from home on his farm for the past two weeks. The AFBF president first noticed symptoms on Monday, July 6, and was tested Wednesday morning.

Coronavirus cases in Georgia have been rising in recent weeks with the state now at nearly 94,000 cases and 2,850 deaths. Nationally, COVID-19 cases have topped 3 million people infected and led to more than 133,000 fatalities.

Duvall's illness also raises questions about whether Perdue and his staff have been tested or are in quarantine now. Since leaving Georgia, also Perdue's home state, the agriculture secretary visited a dairy farm and food bank in Michigan, then visited Arizona on Tuesday, July 6. In Arizona, Perdue met with Gov. Doug Ducey and U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko. He also toured a local food bank there and handed out USDA food-aid boxes.

Most images of Perdue at events over the past several weeks show him wearing a mask, but the agriculture secretary also is often in close contact with people while posing for photos.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control state an individual who has had close contact and exposure to someone infected with COVID-19, within two days before symptom onset, that those people stay at home for 14 days and maintain social distance. They should also consider getting tested for COVID-19.

USDA's communications staff did not respond to questions about precautions Agriculture Secretary Perdue, or other USDA staff, may be taking as a result of Duvall's positive test.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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