GREELEY, Colo., (CBS4) – With the JBS meatpacking plant’s temporary closure in Greeley, Rhonda Solis is concerned about employees from the Latino community.
“They are a backbone of our community, they are part of our community, their children go to our schools, and we need to make sure they are taken care of and that they have a voice,” said Solis, a member of the Latino Coalition of Weld County and Weld County School District 6 Board of Education.
Despite the closure, some employees will return to work this week, to help wind down operations. Solis said many of the employees she’s spoken with want to be tested but haven’t been able to yet.
“Who are those employees? How many are there? Have they been tested? Do any of them have symptoms?” Solis asked.
While JBS announced team members will continue to get paid, Solis says a number of employees have heard few details. Additionally, some employees, who are undocumented, don’t know what resources are available and are scared to ask, Solis said.
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty and a lot of miscommunication, so employees are scared,” she said.
So far, at least 43 JBS employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and three have died: Tibursio River Lopez, 69, Saul Sanchez, 78, and Conchas de la Cruz, 60. Add in language barriers and fears of coming forward about any ailment, and Solis believes the real numbers are likely higher, which could affect other major decisions in the community.
“We know that there’s a high number of parents that work there. So, when I’m trying to determine, as a school board member, do we open school back up, or are we done for the year, this plays a factor in it,” Solis said.
CBS4 reached out to JBS with some of the coalition’s questions, but didn’t hear back.
On Monday, the company described how it will protect employees when they’re back at work, in an announcement posted on its website. That includes implementing better social distancing practices, providing better protective equipment, and relaxing attendance policies.