UPDATE: Read the latest updates about COVID-19 cases and deaths related to the JBS meat processing plant in Greeley. There have been several updates since this story was published.
GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) — More than 30 employees at the JBS meat processing plant in Greeley have tested positive for the coronavirus, Weld County’s health department confirmed Thursday.
The health department is reportedly concerned about workers being at work while sick.
On Tuesday, a longtime JBS employee passed away from coronavirus. Saul Sanchez, 78, had worked for the company for more than 30 years.
JBS USA issued the following statement to CBS4:
“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 talked to the son of another employee who is sick from coronavirus and on a ventilator. Rafael Hernandez said his father has been hospitalized since March 27.
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.
Hundreds of workers at the plant have been 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.
A JBS 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.”