Meat industry giants such as Tyson Foods and JBS U.S. Holdings have closed some of their facilities as employees have fallen ill with COVID-19, but JBS has kept its Greeley, Colorado facility open despite the fact that at least 28 employees have tested positive for the virus, including a long-time employee who passed away this week.
Employees at the Greeley facility have raised the alarm that JBS may be ignoring calls for social distancing and improperly disinfecting equipment and communal spaces. See https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/investigations/weld-county-health-official-would-consider-closing-greeleys-jbs-meat-plant-over-covid-19-concerns. The employees’ complaints sparked a Weld County Health Department investigation into the company’s facilities. Further action, including closure, could be required by the facility pending the health department’s findings.
Agricultural businesses must balance competing interests in the face of COVID-19:
The close quarters required for meatpacking makes keeping the virus spread at bay a difficult task for companies. While obvious measures such as decreasing interpersonal contact or providing personal protective equipment to individual employees can help curtail the spread, companies need to balance employee safety with production.
As essential businesses feeding a country whose grocery shopping habits are verging on hoarding, production in meat processing plants across the country is adjusting to deliver. But if fewer workers are present at each shift and production lines are slowed, there could be issues in providing an adequate quantity of products to consumers. Still, if the virus continues to spread and more workers fall ill, companies will either have to dig into their coffers to quickly hire and train new employees or they will be forced to slow production and retain experienced workers, albeit at a safer distance from one another.
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