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Worthington pork processing plant temporarily closes due to COVID-19 outbreak

JBS facility in Worthington, courtesy KSTP-TV
JBS facility in Worthington, courtesy KSTP-TV(KSFY)
Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 11:53 AM CDT
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A pork processing plant in Worthington, Minn. will temporarily close amid a COVID-19 outbreak.

JBS USA issued a press release Monday saying the company will be shuttering its Worthington plant indefinitely.

According to JBS, the Worthington facility will wind down operations over the next two days with a diminished staff to ensure existing product in the facility can be used to support the food supply. The company will advise its Worthington team members to follow Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s stay at home order until returning to work. The company will continue to pay its team members during the plant closure.

“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,” JBS USA president Bob Krebs said, via a press release. “We have taken aggressive actions to keep coronavirus out of our plant and keep this critical infrastructure facility operational. It is our hope that Governor Walz’s effort to implement more widespread community testing will help all of us better understand the measures we must all take to stop its potential spread. We must work together to defeat this common enemy.”

Cases in Nobles County, Minn. have jumped significantly in the past week. Last Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health had only confirmed two cases in the county. On Monday, that number was up to 76. Those cases include 26 workers at the plant, along with five relatives of employees, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 633, the union representing workers at the plant, had previously urged stronger measures to slow the spread of the disease.

The Worthington facility employs more than 2,000 people, according to JBS.

The closure comes just over a week after the Smithfield Food pork processing plant in Sioux Falls

due to a major COVID-19 outbreak.