JBS meat plant reopens with new health screening while Weld County issues guidance for other businesses

Coronavirus

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — New health screening procedures are in effect at the JBS meat production plant as hundreds of employees returned to work at the Weld County facility Friday.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, over the last two weeks or so, really ramping up our intervention measures at the facility,” said Cameron Bruett, a spokesperson for the company.

Bruett said more workers would return over the course of the next several days, as the plant works to kick things into full gear after a shut-down for more than a week due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

A new health screening outside of the facility involves social distancing and the opportunity for workers to “self-declare” how they are feeling.

“Are they feeling well? Do they not feel well? Do they have a fever, cough? And they’ll kind of self-declare. They’ll then go through a temperature scanner. They’ll get their temperature taken. If they have said that they are healthy and they pass the temperature check, then they’re allowed to go into the facility,” said Bruett, who explained that workers would also receive a mask.

Bruett said workers who declared themselves to be sick and those who had a high temperature would receive a COVID-19 test on site, administered by the county health department.

“We think the new process we’ve established is going to go a long way, ensuring that people who are sick don’t come to work,” said Bruett. 

Meanwhile, Weld County commissioners are preparing for the governor’s stay-at-home order to expire.

Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said the county took a proactive approach by preparing guidance to help the public continue to implement best practices as they start to open businesses and venture out of their homes.

“Those are people’s individual choices,” said Kirkmeyer. “We’re not saying that we’re opening businesses because that’s not in our authority. We’re not saying that we’ve closed businesses. We didn’t start this mess, but what we are saying to them is, ‘If you are making that choice to open your business, here is a tool for you. Here is some guidance and some guidelines that you might want to look at and take into consideration when you’re putting your plan together to open your business.’ Because ultimately, it’s up to that business,” said Kirkmeyer.

The guidance includes suggestions like limiting gathering sizes, continuing to social distance, maintaining clean and disinfected surfaces and encouraging personal hygiene.

“Our goal is to support you in safely reopening businesses as we enter this first phase of relaxing restrictions. Your customers and staff will have confidence they are safe when they see your business following best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the Weld County guidance document, called “Safer at Work” said.

Gov. Jared Polis said if counties were not treating this ongoing COVID-19 situation as an emergency, they could be at risk of losing emergency funding.

“Weld (County) has had a very high number of cases, some of the highest per capita in the state. It’s a hot spot,” he said. “This is not the time to further ease off of restrictions in Weld County, even beyond the way the sate is trying to allow for more safe practices.”

Kirkmeyer said lobbies in county buildings would start to reopen gradually on May 4.

Manwhile, some residents said they were looking forward to getting back to work.

“I think I get kind of excited because we’re going to be able to go out a little more, and it is a little scary because…not everyone is going to take it as serious as I think we need to,” said Dorothy Meza.

Meza, who works as an attendance secretary and registrar at Jefferson High School, said she is a little apprehensive because her father, Felix Alvarado, a forklift operator at JBS, recently came down with COVID-19 symptoms, though he was never tested for the illness. 

“I think until it hits close to home – and that was very close – I don’t think a lot of people take it as serious as it needs to be taken,” she said.

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