GREELEY, Colo. (KDVR) — The JBS USA meat plant in Greeley is winding down operations and will close temporarily beginning Thursday, the company announced Monday.
The announcement comes after two workers at the plant died from COVID-19.
Last week, the company announced it would provide free coronavirus tests for all employees at the plant.
However, on Sunday evening, the company canceled its plans for testing.
“Rather than test its team members, the company has decided to take more aggressive action and self-quarantine Greeley beef employees until plant reopening,” the company said in a statement issued Monday announcing the temporary closure.
The closure is expected to last until April 24, according to JBS.
“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the U.S. food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” Andre Nogueira, JBS USA CEO, said in the statement. “As a leading member of this community, we believe we must do our part to support our local health professionals and first responders leading the fight against coronavirus.”
JBS said it has taken a number of steps to try to keep employees safe, including daily deep-cleanings of the Greeley facility, providing more protective personal equipment for workers and installing plexiglass in key areas.
However, some employees say they have been left in the dark about the company’s response.
“It’s just plain disrespectful — the lack of communication,” said one employee who asked to not be identified.
The employee is one of the people JBS should be communicating with, Gov. Jared Polis said during his press conference Monday. The employee fears identifying themselves could cost them their job but they want questions answered.
The employee said they did not know when they would return to work or if they will be paid during the closure.
“We’ve worked so hard physically, it’s a very demanding job and you can’t even give us the common courtesy of what is going on,” the worker said.
The employee said many others who work at the plant feel similarly.
“A lot of the people have worked there 20-30 years. You owe them an explanation on what’s going on — at least an idea of what’s going to happen to us,” the employee said.
Steve Wooten, the president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, sent the following statement, in part, about the closure:
“While beef producers are committed to providing safe and abundant beef for families throughout Colorado, the nation, and the world, our first concern is ensuring the health and safety of Coloradans in stopping the spread of COVID-19. We were saddened to hear of the passing of two workers from the plant and our thoughts are with their families.”