JBS pork plant in Worthington set to partially re-open this week

The plant has been shut down since a major coronavirus outbreak.
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JBS Pork

The JBS USA pork processing plant in Worthington is set to partially re-open this week.

The plant, which employs more than 2,000 people and handles a large proportion of Minnesota's pork processing, will open its "kill side" this coming Wednesday, according to a release by UFCW Local 663, which represents workers at the facility.

JBS USA announced the indefinite closure of the plant on Apr. 20 after an increasing number of COVID-19 cases were reported among employees.

As of Saturday, there have been 940 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nobles County, the second highest of any county in the state. 

But the plant's closure and closures of others in the Midwest have caused concerns about the nation's meat supply, prompting President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to order processing facilities to reopen.

"As you are aware, the President of the United States signed an executive order that forces JBS and other meatpacking facilities to reopen around the country during this COVID-19 pandemic," said UFCW Local 663 president Matt Utecht.

"JBS plans to reopen the kill side of the plant this Wednesday, May 6. As it has been since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, your safety at work is our top priority.

"While the plant has been idle, our union has been hard at work ensuring that reopening the plant involves a commitment to enhanced safety guidelines for a safe reopening of the Worthington plant. I want to assure you that our voice as a union has been key to pushing for and developing these guidelines to keep you safe at work."

Minnesota Department of Health officials have been conducting intensive testing in Nobles County in an attempt to get a handle on the outbreak.

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The union has shared a list showing a huge number of measures JBS USA is putting in place in order to limit the spread of the virus.

This includes separating workers on the production line using dividers, rigorous disinfecting protocols, and erecting a tent outside to give people more space during lunch.

You can see the full list of measures here.

During the shutdown, the whole plant has been cleaned "floor to ceiling" and numerous hand sanitizer stations and touchless water faucets have been put in place.

Since the shutdown of JBS and another major plant, Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, there has not been enough capacity to process Minnesota's hogs, causing thousands of animals to be euthanized by farmers.

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