AUSTIN, MINN. — Hormel Foods Corp. has closed two manufacturing plants in Alma, Kan., and Rochelle, Ill. The plants are scheduled to restart in 14 days, according to the company.
Management at the Alma plant said it closed because an employee tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). Approximately 100 are employed at the plant that manufactures meals and entrees as well as the Saucy Blues foodservice barbecue brand. The company said all employees will receive their base pay and retain their benefits during the pause in production. When the plant reopens it will include additional safety protocols such as the taking of employee temperatures and requiring employees to wear masks.
Hormel’s Rochelle plant was closed by the local health department due to the spread of COVID-19 in the local community. The company said it is working with officials to determine the steps that need to be taken to reopen the plant.
"Unfortunately, the outbreak has had an effect on our ability to fully operate,” said Bill Rice, plant manager at the Rochelle facility. “We have been part of the fabric of this community for decades, so this news is incredibly disappointing to our great team of people.”
Hormel Foods is just the latest meat processor to close processing plants due to COVID-19. Smithfield Foods, Inc. said April 15 it would close its plants in Cudahy, Wis., and Martin City, Mo., where several employees tested positive. The company also has closed its pork processing plant in Sioux City, SD, after it was linked to a large outbreak in the local community.
JBS USA has temporarily closed its beef processing plant in Greeley, Colo., after 16 positive cases were identified among a workforce that numbers 6,000. The plant is scheduled to reopen on April 24.
Tyson Foods, Inc. had closed its pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, on April 13 after 24 employees tested positive and had planned to resume operations on April 24. After 86 additional positive cases were found in the local community and linked to the outbreak at the Tyson plant, management decided to not resume operations. The plant employs 1,300.
On April 19, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 389 additional positive cases of COVID-19 in the state. The agency attributed 67% of the additional cases to surveillance at meat processing plants in the state.