The Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at the JBS pork plant in Beardstown. WLDS News reported a possible outbreak on Monday after receiving several anonymous tips from listeners that the plant was the source of high positive case numbers in Cass County.
The State Journal Register confirmed in an interview with Melaney Arnold, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health that 30 employees at the plant have tested positive for the virus. As of yesterday, the Cass County Health Department has reported 44 cases total in the county.
Cass County Health Department Administrator Teresa Armstrong told the SJR today that not all reported cases with a link to JBS live in the county. According to JBS USA, the plant employs nearly 2000 people. JBS has refused to release information about positive cases linked to their facilities across the United States.
Andrew English told WLDS news on Friday last week that the Cass County Health Department has had daily contact with the plant on safety protocols and best practices during the pandemic. Armstrong told the SJR that PPE has been issued to employees at the plant and that the plant has moved walls, staggered breaks and meal times, and put up plastic shields throughout the plant. She also confirmed that the workforce is being temperature checked prior to entry into the plant. She also confirmed that workers over the age of 60 have been put on paid leave. JBS has said that anyone who is older than 70, pregnant, on dialysis, or undergoing cancer treatment has been removed from their production facilities as well.
Melaney Arnold told the SJR that meat being processed at the plant is safe for consumption because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. WLDS News has reached out to Arnold for follow up questions, but a phone call and an email has not been returned.