A major beef plant in Green Bay, WI is one of the latest such food production facilities to temporarily shutter its operations, as JBS USA announced Sunday that its JBS Packerland factory has been idled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that at least 189 COVID-19 infections had been linked to JBS Packerland as of Friday, though JBS didn't mention any number of infected employees.
The JBS Packerland plant employs more than 1,200 people, and the company said the facility feeds nearly 3.2 million Americans daily. The plant is the fourth JBS plant to temporarily close due to the novel coronavirus, following closures as Souderton, PA; Greeley, CO; and Worthington, MN. The Souderton and Greeley plants have since reopened.
As of Sunday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 776 positive cases of COVID-19 in Brown County, second in the state only to Milwaukee County (2,629).
"JBS USA is striving to provide the safest working environment possible for its team members who are providing food for the nation during these unprecedented times," a company statement said Sunday. "The company’s efforts to combat coronavirus continue to evolve as new information from medical experts becomes available. JBS USA will pay its team members during the plant closure."
The company operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared food facilities across the US. JBS outlined a number of COVID-19 safety measures it has taken in its facilities, including the following:
- Temperature testing all team members prior to entering facilities, including the use of hands-free thermometers and thermal imaging testing technology;
- Providing extra personal protective equipment, including protective masks, which are required to be worn at all times;
- 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.