Health officials in Weld County, Colo., say they are investigating COVID-19 concerns at JBS USA’s beef plant in Greeley. According to a report in Meatingplace.com, the investigation began after epidemiologists learned of positive COVID-19 cases at the plant, and the department is learning about “lots” of employees seeking care in local emergency departments and public clinics.
“We are taking this situation seriously and are rapidly prioritizing any cases that may be associated with JBS,” Weld County said in a statement. “We've even added additional disease investigator staff to help with this investigation. The health department continues to stress to essential businesses that preventing employees from working while sick and adapting processes to ensure physical distancing is critical to preventing spread in their workforce and community.”
At JBS’ Grand Island, Neb., facility, 10 cases of COVID-19 were reported by the state’s Central District Health Department.
Zack Ireland, general manager at JBS Grand Island, told the Grand Island Independent, the plant is not forcing anyone to come to work. He emphasized the company wants workers who are sick to stay home.
Ireland said JBS is providing a safe work environment for its employees by providing them with face coverings and checking their temperatures. He added the plant is also cleaned and sanitized every day to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A large tent has been placed outside the plant, Ireland said, to increase the size of its commons and facilities areas during break times. He said dividers have also been placed on the tables in the cafeteria to provide additional separation.
“We also educate our employees on proper behaviors outside of work,” Ireland said. “We stay in touch with the local health department and Teresa (Anderson) regularly. We are continuing to evolve as we learn more about this virus.”
JBS’ facilities in Greeley and Grand Island are both considered essential businesses, which allows the operations to continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Greeley plant can process 5,400 head of cattle per day, while the Grand Island plant has a capacity of 5,200 head per day.
In a statement to news outlets, JBS USA said, "As our community collectively faces this challenge, we must work together to defeat coronavirus. Food is an essential need, and our team is working hard to keep food on local grocery store shelves at a time when many Americans are unemployed, out of work or sheltering in place.
“No one is forced to come to work and no one is punished for being absent for health reasons. If someone is sick or lives with someone who is sick, we send them home. Every day, thousands of committed team members show up to the Greeley beef production facility to help our community and our nation face this crisis,” the statement said. “We salute and thank them.”
Tyson Foods, Inc., announced it has suspended operations at it’s Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant “out of an abundance of caution” as more than two dozen employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Tyson CEO Noel White said in a statement, "Our meat and poultry plants are experiencing varying levels of production impact, due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions and worker absenteeism.”