GREELEY, COLO. – JBS USA announced the temporary closure of its beef production facility in Greeley, Colo., until April 24. Governor Jared Polis confirmed that the JBS plant is part of an outbreak in Weld County. JBS is the largest employer in the county, with more than 6,000 employees.
“There is an outbreak there and our priority is to restore this critical part of our national food security, as quickly as possible, as soon as we can confirm that the employees are safe,” Mr. Polis said. “JBS is working with Weld County Public Health designing an aggressive containment strategy.”
The Weld County Department of Health and Environment is currently reporting 740 positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the county. As of April 7, there were at least 16 confirmed positive cases in the plant.
Walk-outs, call offs and complaints about worker safety at the plant prompted an epidemiological investigation by the county health department last week.
“The Weld County Health Department is aware of the situation at JBS, and we have begun our epidemiological investigation,” the department said on April 7. “Our health officer has been in conversations with the leadership team at JBS. We are taking this situation seriously and are rapidly prioritizing any cases that may be associated with JBS. We've even added additional disease investigator staff to help with this investigation.”
The Greeley beef facility will wind down its operations over the next couple of days with fewer employees in order to process the existing product at the plant. The company is advising its Greeley employees to shelter in place until returning to work. The company will continue to pay its employees during the plant closure.
“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the US food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” said Andre Nogueira, chief executive officer of JBS USA. “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.”
As part of the community’s response to the Weld County outbreak, the company is donating $90,000 to the Greeley Personal Isolation Facility to house recovering COVID patients, as well as providing some funding to replenish personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders and essential city workers in the community.
“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.”
The company is also purchasing up to 1,000 COVID-19 test kits for low-income and uninsured Weld County residents who require testing. The company previously announced that they would donate $1 million to purchase test kits. However, rather than test its employees, the company is instead closing the facility and self-quarantining Greeley employees until the plant reopens.
The company is also donating $50,000 to the United Way of Weld County for the purchase of masks and other COVID-19 relief efforts and $100,000 to the Weld County Food Bank.
“As always, we’re proud that JBS USA is part of the Weld County community, and their contributions during this challenging time are a further testament to the kind of partner they are,” said Jeanine Truswell, CEO and president of United Way of Weld County. “This generous donation will help us provide masks to our neighbors, provide basic needs assistance for local families and the elderly, and take other important steps in fighting coronavirus in our community.”
JBS USA operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared foods facilities across the United States. The Greeley beef facility is the second JBS USA plant to temporarily close, joining the Souderton, Pa., beef production facility.