By Rick Sallinger

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4)JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley will begin operating on Friday after it closed due to an outbreak of coronavirus. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has given the go-ahead for reopening after a safety plan was put in place.

(CBS)

Since early this month, several JBS workers have become ill and at least three have died from the coronavirus. Some 6,000 people work in different shifts at the plant.

JBS was ordered closed by the state and county nearly two weeks ago. Testing of management took place, but the plan to test all the workers fell apart when more requirements were added.

Those safety measures include ongoing disease mitigation and containment measures including:

  • Sharing key messages with JBS employees.
  • Requiring employees to wear face masks throughout their shift. Masks will be provided by JBS.
  • Placing hand sanitizer throughout the production facility.
  • Implementing physical distancing interventions for all workers.
  • Increasing signage and communications in appropriate languages by JBS.

JBS has also worked with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to disinfect the production facility.

Employees returning to work will undergo a daily entry screening process and will be tested onsite.

(credit: CBS)

The head of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents many of the workers, Kim Cordova, is not happy with the plan.

She told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger, “You know, we really don’t understand why they are rushing to open up the facility, but you know we are still hoping and pushing that every worker gets tested.”

She added, “We wanted testing for all workers, not just those that are had symptoms, but those who may be asymptomatic.”

She also noted that workers were told not to come if they are sick, making her wonder how they would then be tested.

Friday, the plant is to open for slaughter workers, on Monday it will open to the rest of the staff.

The union says workers are scared and wonder how many will not show up. Cordova said they are afraid that the plant could have to close down again if the plan fails to provide enough safety.

Health officials will expand testing to Weld County residents this weekend.

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Rick Sallinger