FORT MORGAN, Colo. (CBS4) – Operations halted Sunday at the Leprino Foods dairy foods processing plant in Fort Morgan after a high number of employees, some without symptoms, tested positive for coronavirus, a plant spokerperson told CBS4. The plant will remain closed for a minimum of five days, according to Kim DeVigil. A reassessment is planned for Friday.
“We feel this extreme measure is necessary and important for the safety and health of our employees,” DeVigil said in a statement.
Aside from a complete cleaning of the facility, DeVigil said all remaining employees who have not been tested will undergo testing. Also, employees 65 years old and older will be held out of the workforce indefinitely. They will receive pay.
“It is important to note that sanitation and hygiene in our plant environments are robust on a normal basis,” DeVigil stated. “During the COVID-19 situation, we have further enhanced our sanitation processes and instituted a number of other protocols.”
When the plant restarts, employees will answer a questionnaire and receive temperature checks upon entering, and be required to maintain social distancing once inside. All will be required to wear nose and mouth coverings as well.
DeVigil said Leprino will provide supplemental pay to workers forced out of the plant by due to coronavirus.
Leprino employs 350 people at the Fort Morgan location. The company’s website states it has produced dairy products since 1950 and is the largest producer of mozzarella cheese in the world.
According to DeVigil, the company initiated testing April 19th in partnership with the Northeast Colorado Health Department. Testing of the entire workforce is expected to be completed Monday. DeVigil said the company would share results of the testing when it has been completed and the data compiled.
In a statement provided by Leprino, a spokesperson for the health department praised the company’s efforts.
“Leprino has been proactive in applying CDC guidance for cleaning/PPE/social distancing. They have been transparent with NCHD about their efforts and are actively screening staff and enforcing isolation and quarantine as needed. They have made significant modifications to their employee flow, as well as the production line to protect their staff. I believe Leprino has made employee health a priority and their practices are an example for other food industry companies to follow.”
— Trish McClain, Public Health Director for Northeast Colorado Health Department (NCHD)