The JBS pork production facility in Worthington, Minnesota is closing indefinitely, and Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle tells KELOLAND News that as of Sunday night, there were about 70 cases of COVID-19 tied to the facility.
A news release Monday from JBS USA announced the southwest Minnesota pork processing facility’s closure. Kuhle says he wants people to be calm. The latest statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health include 76 positive cases in Worthington’s Nobles County alone.
“We should have been testing for a long time, ’cause it’s, it didn’t just happen overnight, I’m sure we had it in our community for a long time, but we had no testing available to us until now,” Kuhle said.
Kuhle does say most of the city’s people are following health guidelines.
“I believe most residents in Worthington have really been practicing the health and hygiene requirements and best practices, that’s what we need to get through this,” Kuhle said.
Father Jim Callahan is pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Worthington. He says “at least 70%” of his church community works at JBS. He also says that for the immigrant community in the area, there is a lot of fear about COVID-19.
“Very much, there’s a lot of fear, because one, a lot of the people, they don’t fully understand it, but they know that it’s, that can be transmitted,”Callahan said. “But they’re not sure how.”
Social distancing is paramount in the fight against the coronavirus. Both Callahan and Kuhle bring up a possible challenge on this front.
“All employees will be tested that work at the JBS plant, and the county emergency management is working on a plan to isolate the individuals that need to be isolated,” Kuhle said. “Some of them come from housing units that may have four or five, six different people working there.”
“Within many of the immigrant communities, it’s very difficult to quarantine, because what happens is they’re living with maybe five to 10 people living in a household,” Callahan said.
The news release announcing the pork production facility’s closure says that the facility will have operations slowing down over the beginning of this week; it also said that employees are still going to be paid even though it’ll be closed.