HOLTON, KAN. – Johnsonville LLC has temporarily stopped operations at its Holton, Kan., sausage processing facility starting May 13 after five employees tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“As the largest employer in Holton, we made the decision after five members tested positive there on Monday [May 11], as an extra precaution to protect other members, their families and the larger Jackson County community,” the company said. “These members will be paid during this time.”

Angie Reith, health officer for Jackson County, Kan., said, “It’s a tough decision to halt production, but we appreciate Johnsonville for doing this to help us stop the spread of COVID-19. The Johnsonville team has implemented aggressive safety measures and did so early on to protect their workforce, and those efforts have helped immensely in identifying the virus in the facility as quickly as possible. We’ll continue our collaboration to minimize the spread of the virus.”

While the facility remains closed, the company will implement more aggressive safety protocols including:

  • placing additional barriers between workstations where social distancing isn’t possible;
  • conducting COVID-19 testing with all employees who have not yet been tested;
  • conducting additional sanitation throughout the plant; and
  • providing employees with masks to wear when in public.

“While this temporary shutdown will likely have some impact on our fresh sausage deliveries to US retailers, we expect to keep up with demand as our other fresh sausage production facilities are healthy and operating fully throughout the Midwest,” the company said.

Prior to the plant shutdown, Johnsonville implemented safety protocols including:

  • Mandatory temperature checks and screening questionnaires for all employees prior to entering the plant. Any employees with symptoms were sent home.
  • All employees on the plant floor are required to wear face masks and face shields.
  • Strict social distancing protocols were implemented in breakrooms, locker rooms and conference rooms.
  • Increased cleaning of the plant and common areas with sanitizers proven effective against the coronavirus.
  • Employees not essential to manufacturing operations have been working remotely since early March.