Coronavirus Cases at Colorado Meatpacking Plant More Than Double After it Reopens

A meatpacking plant in Colorado saw cases of the novel coronavirus more than double Thursday after it reopened.

The JBS meatpacking facility opened April 24 after being shut down for nearly two weeks due to a novel coronavirus outbreak among its employees. A union spokesperson representing workers told Reuters that the number of confirmed cases among employees has more than doubled this week, from 120 on Sunday to 245 on Wednesday.

Kim Cordova, who leads the local chapter for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, stated in a press release that "the uptick in cases in a matter of days shows how serious this crisis is and the dangers that workers are facing every day just trying to do their jobs."

"Our members share a common goal with JBS, federal, state and local authorities: to ensure that the plant continues to function to protect the food supply chain and to protect jobs, but it must be done in a way that protects the workers so no one else has to die," Cordova stated.

The Greeley, Colorado plant also saw another death attributed to the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll for employees to six. JBS USA said it was saddened by the death and that the employee had not been to work since March 25, according to the Reuters report.

Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs for JBS USA, told Newsweek in an emailed statement that the "majority" of recent confirmed cases are from tests that were conducted prior to workers reporting to the plant and are therefore not tied to its reopening.

"The JBS Greeley beef production facility only reopened after multiple site visits and approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment," Bruett stated.

"In addition, a third party epidemiologist from the University of Colorado at Boulder has toured the Greeley facility and provided recommendations that were subsequently adopted and implemented."

Bruett said the plant is following guidelines from the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration "to the letter."

"All team members are provided, and required to wear, hard hats, ear protection, hair/beard nets, eye protection, surgical masks, frocks, and steel-toed boots. Surgical masks must be worn on company property at all times," Bruett stated.

Newsweek reached out to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 3,000 employees in the Greeley plant, but they did not respond back in time for publication.

 Greeley JBS Meat Packing Plant Closes After Coronavirus Outbreak
GREELEY, COLORADO - APRIL 16: The Greeley JBS meat packing plant sits idle on April 16, 2020 in Greeley, Colorado. The meat packing facility has voluntarily closed until April 24 in order to test employees for the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus. As more workers test positive for the coronavirus throughout the U.S, plants in Colorado, South Dakota, and Iowa have temporarily halted production. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Matthew Stockman/Getty