More than 20 employees at a Chicago meat packing facility have tested positive for coronavirus, the company confirmed.
An anonymous employee contacted NBC 5 and said she and other employees at Rose Packing Company on Chicago’s South Side were informed of the 21 confirmed coronavirus cases by plant managers Thursday at a town hall-style meeting.
The whistleblower said the company is now distributing personal protective equipment.
“Right now face masks are a little too late,” she said. “This is all reactive this week.”
Earlier this week, Smithfield Foods shut down facilities in three different state including it’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota location. The plant was shut down after 598 employees tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as an additional 135 people who are not employed by the company, but contracted the virus after they were in close contact with the workers.
The processing facility supplies 5 percent of the nation’s pork supply and the anonymous Rose Packing Co. employee says Smithfield is one of the company’s suppliers.
And while she fears the worst, her husband, is also concerned over the close proximity he says employees share at the plant.
“The fear of what will happen because you see your coworkers are showing symptoms or all of sudden you’re at work and your coworker is not there and you don’t know why,” he lamented. “ I’m not only concerned about workers but what about potentially consumers and cross contamination.”
In a statement, Rose Packing Company confirmed, "despite the many precautionary measures that we have taken in recent weeks, 21 of the more than 500 employees at our Major Avenue facility in Chicago have informed us that they have tested positive for COVID-19. “
“All of these employees are under self-quarantine at home or are under medical care,” the statement added. “We identified any other team members who may have been in close contact with these employees and we have placed these individuals on paid leave.”
The company added that it follows government guidelines for food handling and conduct sa full sanitation in production areas nightly.
Rose Packing also said it has distributed personal protective equipment to employees and staggered break times in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Full Statement From Rose Packing Company:
"As part of our nation’s essential critical infrastructure, all food production facilities have a special responsibility to maintain our country’s food supply during this national emergency. To ensure the wellbeing of our team members, we have implemented programs, procedures and practices that conform to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Our primary focus continues to be to meet or exceed all CDC and IDPH guidance for COVID-19 in order to protect our team members and their families.
The number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the Chicago metropolitan area has increased recently and there are many sources of community transmission. Despite the many precautionary measures that we have taken in recent weeks, 21 of the more than 500 employees at our Major Avenue facility in Chicago have informed us that they have tested positive for COVID-19. All of these employees are under selfquarantine at home or are under medical care. Upon learning of the employees testing positive for COVID-19, we immediately activated our COVID-19 response plan, which aligns with CDC and IDPH guidelines. Out of an abundance of caution, and in conformance with those guidelines, we identified any other team members who may have been in close contact with these employees and we have placed these individuals on paid leave.
Government regulations already require food production facilities to operate under strict requirements for cleaning and sanitation. All employees are required to wash their hands multiple times per shift as part of our long-standing food sanitation procedures. Each evening, we conduct a full sanitation in each of our production areas, which includes:
Chemical foaming of equipment, walls, and ceilings, Manual scrubbing of equipment surfaces, A full wash down to remove all food-grade cleaning chemicals, Collection of microbiological monitoring samples to verify cleanliness, A thorough, final, visual inspection of rooms and equipment, A final sanitization of all equipment prior to the beginning of operations.
The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority. Our employee protective measures include: Restricted access to external visitors at facility beginning March 1, Implemented continuous cleaning and disinfection of common areas and surfaces, including breakrooms, restrooms, offices, doorknobs, vending machines, handrails, and desks. Only EPA registered sanitizers effective against Coronavirus are used, Implemented staggered break times to enhance social distancing and added more break areas to facilitate spacing, Educated all team members on the importance of proper hand hygiene, Refraining from touching the face, and recognition of COVID-19 symptoms, Deployed facemasks for all employees, Deployed face shields for all employees, Installed additional hands-free sanitizing stations, Developed an in-depth, CDC-guided close contact investigation process, Developed a COVID-19-related paid leave program.
Our team members at the Major Avenue facility play an important role in feeding our country. We share a collective responsibility to take care of each other in these trying times. We will continue to make every effort to maintain a safe environment to keep our employees healthy."