GREEN BAY, WIS. – JBS USA has temporary closed its beef production plant in Green Bay, Wis., following a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The company said it will work with state and local health officials while the facility is closed. JBS workers will follow Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ "Safer at Home Order" while the plant is shuttered.
“Given the continued spread of coronavirus in our community and among our workforce, we have decided to voluntarily close our Green Bay facility in an effort to help flatten the curve of infections in Brown County,” said Shannon Grassl, president of JBS USA Regional Beef. "We’ve been focused on doing everything we can to keep the virus out of our facility, but we believe a temporary closure is the most aggressive action we can take to help our community collectively slow the spread of COVID-19.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 776 cases had been reported in Green Bay’s Brown County as of April 26.
In Colorado, JBS on April 24 reopened its beef processing facility in Greeley, starting with harvesting operations. Fabrication is scheduled to resume April 27.
JBS suspended harvest operations on April 9 and fabrication on April 15. The facility was closed following a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Weld County, where more than 275 new cases have been reported since the plant closure.
“After voluntarily closing the Greeley beef facility in an effort to stop potential spread among our workforce and contribute to community containment, we have taken proactive steps to complement our existing COVID-19 prevention efforts in the facility and continue to provide a safe working environment,” said Chris Gaddis, head of human resources for JBS USA. “We believe our partnership with the CDC, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and WCDPHE has enhanced our prevention protocols and will give our team members confidence to safely return to work.”
The meat processing company said it would enhance the existing daily temperature screening and provide free, on-site testing for symptomatic team members that will be conducted with the Weld County Health Department before entering the facility. Any worker with a fever or other confirmed COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home immediately.
While closed, JBS deep cleaned the facility, installed a new ventilation system for the fabrication cafeteria, enhanced existing social distancing protocols and finalized the installation of physical barriers on production lines. The company also conducted additional online training for COVID-19 symptom detection and increased signage in multiple languages to educate workers on ways to prevent potential spread.
“Team members were paid during the plant closure and the company proactively contacted employees through text messages, phone calls and social media to provide tips on what to do while away from work, in accordance with recommendations from the CDC and the WCDPHE,” JBS said. “All team members have been receiving temperature checks prior to entering the facility since April 2. Masks have been provided to team members since April 2 and are required to be worn at all times on company property.”
JBS USA operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared foods facilities across the United States. The company's Green Bay facility is the fourth plant to temporarily close to help slow community spread. Two of the beef facilities in Souderton, Pa., and Greeley, Colo., recently reopened. JBS's pork facility in Worthington, Minn., remains closed.