WORTHINGTON, Minn. (KELO) — JBS USA announced the indefinite closure of the Worthington, Minnesota, pork production facility on Monday. The facility employs more than 2,000 Nobles County team members and processes 20,000 hogs per day.
Several reported cases of COVID-19 have been identified at the JBS pork production facility in Worthington.United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 said in an April 17 news release. WCCO, the CBS affiliate in the Twin Cities, said today that Minnesota Department of Health officials confirmed 20 cases of COVID-19 in JBS employees and five in family members.
Nobles County had 76 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, according to the MN DOH.
“We don’t make this decision lightly. We recognize JBS Worthington is critical to local hog producers, the U.S. food supply and the many businesses that support the facility each and every day,” Bob Krebs, President of JBS USA Pork said.
Over the next two days, the Worthington pork facility will wind down operations. A diminished staff will work to ensure existing product in the facility can be used for food supply. JBS USA will advise its Worthington team members to follow the Minnesota stay at home order until returning to work.
The company will continue to pay its team members during the plant closure.
“We have taken aggressive actions to keep coronavirus out of our plant and keep this critical infrastructure facility operational. It is our hope that Governor Walz’s effort to implement more widespread community testing will help all of us better understand the measures we must all take to stop its potential spread. We must work together to defeat this common enemy,” Krebs said.
The company says it focuses on keeping the virus out of its facilities.
The company already implemented several preventive measures, including:
- Temperature testing all team members prior to entering facilities, including the use of hands-free thermometers and thermal imaging testing technology in all locations;
- Providing extra personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective masks, which are required to be worn at all times, to all team members;
- Promoting physical distancing by staggering starts, shifts and breaks, and increasing spacing in cafeterias, break and locker rooms, including plexiglass dividers in key areas;
- Increasing sanitation and disinfection efforts, including whole facility deep-cleaning every day;
- Hiring dedicated staff whose only job is to continuously clean facilities, including common areas beyond the production floor;
- Removing vulnerable populations from facilities, offering full pay and benefits;
- Requiring sick team members to stay home from work;
- Waiving short-term disability waiting periods;
- Relaxing attendance policies so people don’t come to work sick;
- Providing free 100% preventative care to all team members enrolled in the company’s health plan;
- Offering free LiveHealth Online services for team members enrolled in the company’s health plan that allow for virtual doctor visits at no cost;
- Educating and encouraging team members to practice social distancing at home and in the community outside of work; and
- Restricting access to facilities and not allowing visitors.
The Worthington pork production facility is the third JBS USA plant to temporarily close.
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