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Colorado JBS plant closes due to COVID-19 outbreak, Grand Island plant remains open

(KKCO)
Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 6:00 AM CDT
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UPDATE: April 14, 2020 5:30PM

JBS officials told Local4 late Tuesday afternoon that there are no plans to close the meat-packing plant in Grand Island, Neb.

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The JBS meat-packing plant in Greeley, Colorado has closed temporarily after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

At least 43 employees have tested positive for the virus. Of that number, 14 have been hospitalized and two workers have died.

On Monday, JBS USA announced the facility would be closed until April 24.

The company also announced multiple additional efforts to support the fight against coronavirus in Weld County, Colo.

JBS USA said as the largest employer in the county with more than 6,000 team members, the company is focusing its efforts to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

The Greeley beef facility will wind down operations over the next two days with a diminished staff to ensure existing product in the facility can be used to support food supply needs. In partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, the company will advise its Greeley beef team members to shelter in place in accordance with Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order until returning to work. The company will continue to pay its team members during the plant closure.

“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the U.S. food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” said Andre Nogueira, JBS USA CEO. “As a leading member of this community, we believe we must do our part to support our local health professionals and first responders leading the fight against coronavirus.”

Weld County is currently experiencing a growing outbreak of COVID-19, with more than 700 cases as of Monday.

To further aid the community’s response to the local outbreak, the company will provide funding to replenish personal protective equipment for first responders and essential city workers, including protective suits for Greeley fire, police and transit officials; provide funding for antibody testing for first responders; and donate $90,000 to the Greeley Personal Isolation Facility to house recovering COVID patients and free up critical hospital space for critically ill individuals.

“The City is profoundly grateful for the generous contribution of funds to assure that critical protective equipment is available for our city’s first responders as they perform their essential duties in service to the community,” said Greeley Mayor John Gates. “The additional funding to support the management of a Personal Isolation Facility will assure that our hospitals have beds available for the most ill of the COVID-19 affected patients. JBS USA is a great community partner, and this assistance is vital and timely.”

Importantly, the company will also purchase and provide up to 1,000 COVID-19 test kits for low-income and uninsured local Weld County residents who require testing. This does not include the previously announced $1 million in test kits purchased by JBS USA. Rather than test its team members, the company has decided to take more aggressive action and self-quarantine Greeley beef employees until plant reopening.

JBS USA operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared foods facilities across the United States, including ones in Nebraska. The Greeley beef production facility is the second JBS USA plant to temporarily close, joining the Souderton, Pa., beef production facility. The company has also experienced increased absenteeism in a few other plants, but continues to operate the majority of its facilities across the country at or near capacity, in an effort to continue providing food for Americans.

To date, JBS USA has adopted the following safety measures, health protocols and worker benefits at all its facilities.

- 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

- Dedicating 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 in many locations

- Providing extra personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective masks that are required to be worn at all times

- 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