LOGAN, UTAH – In the last week, Bear River Health Department (BRHD) tested 1,024 employees at the JBS Beef plant in Hyrum, Utah. Results from the health department showed 287 positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) after tests were completed around May 30.
BRHD acknowledged that it was making an effort to get ahead of the outbreak on June 5, but resources are strained.
According to the Utah Department of Health website on June 11, there were 878 confirmed cases in Bear River, where the majority of Hyrum is located.
JBS spokesperson Nikki Richardson said the company is working with public health officials and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its response to the testing results.
“Our Hyrum facility is open but operating at reduced capacity this week,” Richardson said. “We recently partnered with the Utah Department of Health to provide mandatory testing of our Hyrum workforce. We are following CDC guidance to quarantine all team members who have tested positive and we conducted additional deep cleaning of the plant. We will not operate a facility if we don’t believe it is safe, and we are running the plant at the levels we anticipated due to testing.”
BRHD asked for additional investigators from the Utah National Guard, local health department, the Utah Department of Health and a team from the CDC. The CDC team will provide technical assistance, industry assistance and investigation support.
JBS said it is implementing precautions to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19 in the Hyrum facility.
“We are following, and often times exceeding, all CDC and OSHA issued guidance around safety and social distancing, and we’re doing everything possible to provide a safe working environment for our team members who are providing food for us all during these unprecedented times,” Richardson said.
Over the last few days, The Salt Lake Tribune reported protests were held at the meat processing plant over working conditions, demanding JBS to close the plant.
Josh Green, Bear River department spokesperson, said the department cannot shut the facility down because of the executive order signed by President Donald Trump.