Smithfield announced two more closures of their meat packing facilities over the weekend after multiple cases of COVID-19.
JBS in Beardstown has received multiple allegations of its workers testing positive for COVID-19 since the number of cases in Cass County have spiked throughout the last week. KHQA and WICS placed an inquiry with the company’s Colorado corporate offices on Wednesday last week and received no confirmation of the cases.
Cass County Board Chairman Michael Barnett says that the company nor local emergency management can release where the cases are coming from in the county due to HIPAA laws. Barnett says that the county is doing everything it can to help the pork processing plant stay open. “We have reached out to the State of Illinois to try and get a large number of the instant tests pioneered by Abbott Labs. The tests that can determine if somebody is positive within 15 minutes. Our goal is to get enough to test all of the workers at our major manufacturing plant. That way we can identify the ones who need to be safeguarded, and then the ones that are negative that can continue to work. It’s very important for that plant to remain open. It’s one of only two remaining hog processing plants that remain open in the State of Illinois. It is the largest. We are doing everything that we can to #1 protect the citizens of the community and #2 to do everything we can to assist [JBS] in remaining open.”
The press release to KHQA and WICS says that the plant has put in place mitigation measures to screen workers of possible COVID-19 symptoms. Follow up questions about the number of workers that have tested positive for the virus has not been returned. To date, Cass County has 24 positive cases in the county.