GREELEY, COLO. – Walk-outs, call offs and complaints about worker safety at a JBS USA beef processing plant in Greeley, Colo., prompted an epidemiological investigation by the county health department.

As of April 7, the Weld County Department of Health and Environment reported 525 positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 29 deaths in the county. There have been at least 16 confirmed positive cases in the plant. More than 4,500 individuals work at the Greeley facility.

“The Weld County Health Department is aware of the situation at JBS, and we have begun our epidemiological investigation,” the department said. “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 health department continues to stress to essential businesses that preventing employees from working while sick and adapting processes to ensure physical distancing is critical to preventing spread in their workforce and community.”

JBS USA said the facility implemented measures to keep workers safe and the processing plant operational. Steps taken include:

  • Increasing sanitation and disinfection efforts, including whole facility deep cleaning.
  • Promoting physical distancing by staggering starts, shifts and breaks, and increasing spacing in cafeterias, break and locker rooms.
  • Dedicating staff to continuously clean facilities.
  • Temperature testing all team members prior to entering our facilities.
  • Providing extra personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective masks.
  • Removing vulnerable populations from our facilities, offering full pay and benefits.
  • Requiring sick team members to stay home from work.
  • Waiving short-term disability waiting periods.
  • Relaxing attendance policies so people don’t come to work sick.
  • Providing free 100% preventative care to all team members.
  • Offering free LiveHealth Online services that allow for virtual doctor visits at no cost.

“Team member health and safety remains our top priority,” the company said. “We are working closely with local officials, the health department and following guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our goal is to continue operating safely to provide access to food during this critical time, and we are very proud of the work our team members are doing right now to contribute to our nation’s food supply.”

On March 31, JBS USA reduced production at a beef processing plant in Souderton, Pa., after several senior-level managers reported having flu-like symptoms. The company planned to continue its fabrication operations and ground beef processing and expects normal operations to resume on April 14.