JBS USA says its Greeley, Colo., facility will be closed through Tuesday for plant cleaning and sanitizing in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Dozens of plant employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and two employees have died.
JBS said in a release issue to the media it will use Easter Weekend and “an existing collectively bargained paid holiday on Monday,” to coordinate the testing and partake in extra deep cleaning in the plant. The plant will also be closed Tuesday “to ensure testing is complete.”
In the statement released Friday, JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira said 36 employees have tested positive and JBS is paying more than $1 million for thousands of testing kits. The plant, located in Weld County, Colo., has a daily slaughter capacity of 5,400 cattle.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, however, says more employees have tested positive and it wants the plant closed for a week for cleaning.
“At present, we are aware of at least forty-two JBS employees and Union members, as well as eight employees who are not represented, who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus – five of them are hospitalized at present,” UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova wrote in a letter to the state. “Local 7 believes there may be significantly more individuals at the plant who are carrying the virus but may either be asymptomatic, not tested, or afraid to come forward as they are not eligible for sick pay.”
The first JBS employee to die from the disease was reported Tuesday, April 7, and UFCW said a second plant employee died Friday, April 10.
The Greeley Tribune reported Friday that JBS has been in contact with Colorado politicians, including Governor Jared Polis and Sen. Cory Gardner to secure test kits for each of its roughly 6,000 team members.
“While the measures we have taken within our facility to improve safety have made a positive impact, COVID-19 remains a threat across the United States and in Weld County, which is why we are investing more than $1 million in COVID-19 testing kits for our team members,” said Andre Nogueira, JBS USA CEO, in the statement issued to media. “Greeley is our home and more than 6,000 JBS team members and their families live in Weld County. We currently have 36 JBS employees who have tested positive in Weld County and we are offering support to our team members and their families. No matter what measures we take in our facilities, we must all work together to prevent the continued spread of coronavirus in our communities.”
JBS provided a list of measures the company is implementing to stop the spread of the virus:
- Increasing sanitation and disinfection efforts, including whole facility deep-cleaning every day
- Promoting physical distancing by staggering starts, shifts and breaks, and increasing spacing in cafeterias, break and locker rooms, including plexiglass dividers in key areas
- Significantly increasing the number of dedicated staff to continuously clean facilities
- Temperature testing all team members prior to entering our facilities, including the use of hands-free thermometers and thermal imaging testing technology
- Providing extra personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective masks
- Removing vulnerable populations from our 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
- Offering free LiveHealth Online services that allow for virtual doctor visits at no cost
In its statement, JBS said it is optimistic increased screening and testing “will provide confidence to its workforce and the community that this critical infrastructure facility will continue to operate and provide food for local families and the country during these challenging times.”