JBS USA has announced the temporary closure of its Greeley beef production facility until April 24, and multiple additional efforts to help mitigate the novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) epidemic in Weld County, Colorado. The action followed positive test results for the virus among several dozen employees, and a high absentee rate among workers.
As the largest employer in the county with a payroll of more than 6,000 workers, the subsidiary of Sao Paulo, Brazil-headquartered JBS S.A. is focusing efforts to combat spread of deadly pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China late last year and as of April 14 has been attributed to 306 deaths in Colorado and more than 123,000 fatalities worldwide.
The Greeley beef facility will wind down operations by April 16 with a diminished staff to ensure existing product in the facility enter the food supply pipeline. In partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, the company is advising its Greeley beef employees to “shelter in place” in accordance with the state’s stay-at-home order until returning to work. The company will continue to pay employees during the closure, and the plant will be deep cleaned during the shutdown.
“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. “We must do our part to support our local health professionals and first responders leading the fight against coronavirus.”
Weld County is currently confronted with a growing assault from the novel coronavirus contagion, with nearly 740 cases having been recorded thus far. JBS will further aid the community’s response to the local outbreak by donating funds to replenish personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders and essential city workers, including protective suits for Greeley fire, police and transit officials. It will also provide funding for antibody testing for first responders; and donate $90,000 to the Greeley Personal Isolation Facility to house recovering Covid-19 patients and free up critical hospital space for critically ill individuals.
The company will also purchase and provide up to 1,000 Covid-19 test kits for low-income and uninsured local Weld County residents who require testing. This does not include the previously announced $1 million in test kits purchased by JBS USA. Rather than test its team members, the company has decided to take more aggressive action and self-quarantine Greeley beef employees until plant reopening.
JBS USA operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared foods plants across the United States. The Greeley beef production facility is the second JBS USA plant to temporarily close, joining its beef production facility in Souderton, Pennsylvania. The company has also experienced increased absenteeism in a few other plants, but continues to operate the majority of its facilities across the country at or near capacity, in an effort to continue providing food for its customers.