By Rick Sallinger

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4/CNN) – A longtime JBS meat processing plant employee in Greeley passed away Tuesday night from coronavirus. Saul Sanchez, 78, had worked for the company for more than 30 years.

Saul Sanchez (credit: United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7)

JBS USA issued the following statement to CBS4:

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“JBS USA confirmed today that a team member has died from complications associated with COVID-19. The individual worked at the JBS production facility in Greeley, Colo., providing more than 30 years of dedicated service. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our team member. We are offering support to the family and our team members during this time. Our sympathies are with our fallen friend, the family and all those impacted by COVID-19.”

CBS4 reporter Rick Sallinger has learned that another employee at the plant is now sick from coronavirus and on a ventilator. That employee’s son, Rafael Hernandez, said his father has been hospitalized since March 27.

Rafael Hernandez (credit: CBS)

Hernandez said his dad and Saul Sanchez worked together for decades at the JBS plant. Hernandez is also concerned for his sister who works there and has become ill.

“This plant continues to operate. There are hundreds of people still there getting sick affecting others,” he complained.

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Hundreds of workers at the plant are staying home each day after reports of employees testing positive for the virus. Kim Cordova, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said union leaders were not allowed to enter the plant under the current stay-at-home restrictions. She said a doctor’s note is required in order for workers to qualify for time off.


JBS, through a spokesman, said temperatures are being taken on those who enter. Because they do beef processing, the plant is kept clean, but they have hired 15 people just for cleaning now.

JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett told CBS4 the plant is open because it involves food and is considered an “essential business.” He said, “It’s for the good of the nation.”

Across the country, major meat processors including Tyson and Cargill are starting to shut down plants as employees are getting infected by coronavirus.

JBS USA has stopped operations at its beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania with plans to reopen April 16, after two weeks. The company decided to close the facility after several members of the plant’s management team stopped going to work because they were experiencing flu-like symptoms, a company representative explained, adding that all other JBS USA’s plants are still open.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)

Rick Sallinger