GREEN BAY -- Officials with JBS USA on Sunday, April 26 announced the temporary closure of the company's Green Bay beef production facility to "slow the spread of COVID-19." It's the fourth JBS USA plant to temporarily close, and comes amid 776 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brown County, along with two deaths (as of Sunday), according to officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
According to a news release from JBS USA, the Green Bay facility employs more than 1,200 people and feeds nearly 3.2 million Americans every day.
WLUK reported as of Thursday afternoon, April 23, 267 of Brown County's confirmed COVID-19 cases had stemmed from three meat processing facilities, JBS, American Foods Group and Salm Partners in Denmark, with 189 of the 267 confirmed cases coming from JBS alone.
In partnership and consultation with DHS and the Brown County Health and Human Services Department - Public Health Division, the company is advising its Green Bay team members to follow Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ "Safer at Home Order" while the plant is closed. JBS USA will pay its team members during the plant closure.
JBS USA officials noted the company is striving to provide the safest working environment possible for its team members who are providing food for the nation during these unprecedented times, and the company’s efforts to combat the coronavirus continue to evolve as new information from medical experts becomes available.
“As an essential business providing necessary supplies and services for Wisconsin, we have endeavored to maintain operations to ensure continued access to safe, affordable food,” said Shannon Grassl, president of the JBS USA Regional Beef, in the release. “Given the continued spread of coronavirus in our community and among our workforce, we have decided to voluntarily close our Green Bay facility in an effort to help flatten the curve of infections in Brown County. We’ve been focused on doing everything we can to keep the virus out of our facility, but we believe a temporary closure is the most aggressive action we can take to help our community collectively slow the spread of COVID-19.”
JBS USA operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared foods facilities across the United States.
Of the four plants to temporarily close, the release noted the Souderton, Pa., beef production facility and the Greeley, Colo., beef production facility have reopened, and the Worthington, Minn., pork facility remains closed.
The release noted the following safety measures taken by the company to prevent the coronavirus from entering workplaces and support team members:
- Temperature testing all team members prior to entering facilities, including the use of hands-free thermometers and thermal imaging testing technology;
- Providing extra personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective masks, which are required to be worn at all times;
- Promoting physical distancing by staggering starts, shifts and breaks, and increasing spacing in cafeterias, break and locker rooms, including plexiglass dividers in key areas;
- Increasing sanitation and disinfection efforts, including whole facility deep-cleaning every day;
- Hiring dedicated staff whose only job is to continuously clean facilities, including common areas beyond the production floor;
- Removing vulnerable populations from facilities, offering full pay and benefits;
- Requiring sick team members to stay home from work;
- Waiving short-term disability waiting periods;
- Relaxing attendance policies so people don’t come to work sick;
- Providing free 100% preventative care to all team members enrolled in the company’s health plan;
- Offering free LiveHealth Online services for team members enrolled in the company’s health plan that allow for virtual doctor visits at no cost;
- Educating and encouraging team members to practice social distancing at home and in the community outside of work; and
- Restricting access to facilities and not allowing visitors.