Worthington Pork Plant Closed Indefinitely
Aerial view of Worthington, Minnesota. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Worthington Pork Plant Closed Indefinitely

More than two dozen employees tested positive for Covid-19.

On Monday morning, Colorado-based JBS USA announced the “indefinite closure” of its pork processing facility in the southwestern Minnesota city of Worthington. The closure comes in the wake of numerous Covid-19 cases connected to the plant, which employs more than 2,000 workers.

On Saturday, the Minnesota Department of Health said that at least 26 JBS employees had tested positive for Covid-19.

“We don’t make this decision lightly. We recognize JBS Worthington is critical to local hog producers, the U.S. food supply and the many businesses that support the facility each and every day,” said Bob Krebs, President of JBS USA Pork, in a statement.

“As we all learn more about coronavirus, it is clear that the disease is far more widespread across the U.S. and in our county than official estimates indicate based on limited testing,” he added.

The company will continue to pay its employees while the plant is closed. A reduced staff will wind down plant operations over the next two days.

JBS also announced about a dozen preventative measures that will be introduced at the plant including:

  • Temperature testing all team members prior to entering facilities, including the use of hands-free thermometers and thermal imaging testing technology in all locations
  • Providing extra personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective masks, which are required to be worn at all times, to all team members
  • Promoting physical distancing by staggering starts, shifts, and breaks, and increasing spacing in cafeterias, break and locker rooms, including Plexiglas dividers in key areas

A Worthington city official said that he could not comment on the news late Monday morning because although he had started to hear second-hand reports, he had not been directly notified of the JBS closure.

On April 12, Virginia-based Smithfield Food Inc. closed its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after hundreds of employees there tested positive for the virus. The Sioux Falls facility employs 3,700 people. Sioux Falls is roughly 60 miles due west of Worthington.

JBS operates more than 60 facilities across the U.S. The Worthington facility is the third to be closed temporarily.

Meat processing plants are susceptible to coronavirus because workers typically work in very close proximity to each other.

Earlier today, Twin Cities Business reported that a meat-packing plant owned by Wayzata-based Cargill Inc. in the Canadian province of Alberta was the source of more than 300 Covid-19 cases. Cargill’s plant in the town of High River, south of Calgary in Alberta, remains open.