ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Nearly 400 employees at a Missouri pork-processing plant were diagnosed with COVID-19 — though all are asymptomatic.
Officials at Triumph Foods in St. Joseph, Missouri began implementing company-wide testing of asymptomatic employees in late April, amid news of several large meat-processing facilities across the nation being forced to temporarily close due to COVID-19 outbreaks, or staffing shortages created by the pandemic.
Initial results shared by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) indicated that nearly 100 had contracted the virus that causes COVID-19. Later tests showed that more than 300 employees were positive for COVID-19, out of more than 2,300 workers.
That number is up to 373, according to a DHSS spokesperson, The Hill reported Monday, May 4, with additional employees at the St. Joseph plant scheduled to be tested next week, according to the DHSS.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said in a press release on Monday that all of those employees were in quarantine.
A representative for Triumph Foods was not immediately available to confirm how the testing results will affect production, or whether the St. Joseph facility will temporarily close.
On Sunday, May 3, Triumph Foods CEO Mark Campbell issued a video update to employees, confirming that around 17% of the Triumph Foods workforce had tested positive for coronavirus, but 90% of them were asymptomatic.
“We will continue to deep clean, sanitize and disinfect our workplace, and ask that all of you practice good preventative measures of social distancing, frequent handwashing and wearing a face mask,” said Campbell, adding that the company would be distributing personal protective equipment to employees to help prevent the spread of coronavirus to their families. “Triumph Foods is committed to maintaining a safe workplace, and fulfilling our role in the nation’s food supply chain, from farm to table. Yet, our collective health and safety is the most important priority. Completing this proactive testing initiative has been a valuable step forward as we work to contain COVID-19. We are truly in this together.”
News of Triumph Foods’ outbreak came amid concerns for the nation’s food supply chain, after plants operated by Tyson, Smithfield and JBS were all forced to temporarily close. Industry analysts and insiders have predicted supermarket shoppers might soon be feeling the effects of hiccups in the supply chain, possibly seeing fewer options in the meat aisle, along with slightly higher prices.