Updated: April 24, 2020 05:58 PM
Created: April 24, 2020 04:27 PM
(ABC 6 News) - A Hormel Foods subsidiary has shut down a pair of Jennie-O turkey plants after reporting some employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
The company said 14 employees out of about 1,200 workers at the two Willmar plants have tested positive for the virus.
Fourteen employees at the Jennie-O turkey plants in Willmar had tested positive as of Thursday.
That's out of about 1,200 workers at the two plants. They're the latest to be shut down as meat processing plants around the country wrestle with workers in close quarters being afflicted by the virus.
In a statement, Jennie-O said they are pausing operations to undergo a facility-wide cleaning and that under its pay program all employees will continue to receive 100% of their base pay and benefits during the pause.
“The health, well-being and safety of our team members is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to take a pause in operations,” said Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store. “We are being thoughtful and considerate in our approach to this process. I want to recognize our production professionals for continuing to do an outstanding job as they work to keep food on tables during this unprecedented time. I am very proud of them and I look forward to being back together as soon as we are able.”
“During this pause, we will maintain our thorough food processing sanitation practices, as well as the enhanced procedures that we have been employing since the emergence of COVID-19. The facilities will be deep cleaned, including all common areas and high- touch surfaces,” Lykken added. “Lastly, we have implemented wellness screenings, provided masks and additional personal protective equipment and enhanced safety and sanitation protocols throughout our facilities. We are working closely with external partners as we also develop our plan for reopening when the time is appropriate. As a longstanding and respected Minnesota company, our goal is to always do the right thing.”
"Jennie-O Turkey Store is leading with best-in-industry practices including detailed employee wellness screenings, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, effective physical distancing and PPE usage, and active employee quarantining that exceeds current CDC guidelines. These measures are designed to protect the company's employees and the safety of their products and customers," said Dr. David Acheson M.D., founder and CEO of the Acheson Group who is trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases and previously a chief medical officer at the FDA.
“Local public health is here to help support Jennie-O Turkey Store and its employees, just as we are for the entire Kandiyohi County community,” said Jennie Lippert, health and human services director for Kandiyohi County. “The proactive measures which Jennie-O Turkey Store is taking will help mitigate the transmission rate within our county.”
In a statement the company said they are encouraging all staff to get tested and that they have, "strategic operation protocols and plans to ensure business continuity, including the use of its other facilities."
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