Daughter says ailing mom was told to return to work at JBS despite COVID-19 symptoms

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DENVER (KDVR) — On the day San Twin learned she would need an emergency C-Section because her body was fighting COVID-19, her mother learned she would be needing a ventilator to stay alive.

“I said, ‘Mom, you can make it. Just stay strong.’ My mom said, ‘I really want to come back to you guys and see my grandson,’” Twin recalled.

That day, Twin’s mother, Tin Aye, 60, hung up the phone without saying the words “goodbye” or “I love you,” something her daughter always enjoyed and expected.

“She just told me that ‘I think I cannot make it anymore,’ and then she just hung up,” said Twin.  

Twin said her mother has suffered several strokes and is expected to be disabled if she survives COVID-19.

“I just want my mom to come back. If I could trade my life over for my mom, I would do so. It’s because she’s worked really hard for us, and she’s always taking care of us,” said Twin.

Aye and her family arrived in the United States as Burmese refugees about 11 years ago, and she has worked for the meat production facility JBS for nearly the same amount of time.

Twin said her mother told her that she had visited a JBS “clinic” about her symptoms but said she was told to return to work.

“My mom say, ‘They say that I’m doing OK. It’s just a common cold, and then they send me back to work,’” Twin said. 

She said her mother’s symptoms had been progressing for several days. Her mother had a cough and difficulty breathing.

A spokesperson for the plant, Nikki Richardson, said JBS is actively looking into the claim that Aye was told she should return to work.

 The facility has an occupational health office in the plant but no clinic.

“We are saddened that our faithful team member and her family have been impacted by COVID-19. We will do everything we can to support her and the family. Our policy and our culture are to put people first and if she was told to work while sick, that would be a clear violation of both,” Richardson said.

Richardson said Aye’s family should not worry about Aye’s FMLA claim, of which JBS recently became aware. “We will make things right and ensure she and the family will receive the support they deserve,” she said.

Twin, who believes she contracted COVID-19 from a visit with her mother prior to her hospitalization, gave birth to a son, Felix, at the end of March.

Twin’s mother never got to meet the baby. Twin also had to be separated from her newborn for several days because of her COVID-19 diagnosis. She said her entire family is struggling to cope with Aye’s condition.

Twin said her brother is a Marine who recently returned to the U.S. from Japan, but he is also unable to travel to visit his ailing mother.

“I want her to be alive and be happy and rest,” said Twin. “She never rests.”

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