'Kill side' of JBS plant in Worthington to reopen on Wednesday

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A portion of the JBS meatpacking plant in Worthington is set to reopen on Wednesday.

According to a news release, the reopening is in response to President Donald Trump's executive order that mandates meatpacking facilities reopen around the country. 

The union president for the JBS plant says they have worked to enhance safety guidelines for workers at the plant to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. JBS closed the plant last month as employees started coming down with coronavirus.

Some of those safety guidelines include:

  • Taking temperatures of employees before entering facilities.
  • Providing extra personal protective equipment.
  • Changing operations to promote physical distancing.
  • Increased sanitation, including whole facility deep-cleaning every day.
  • Hiring a staff specifically to clean/sanitize.

The plant is within Nobles County, and according to the Minnesota Department of Health, the county had 1,069 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday. That total is almost double the number of cases in Ramsey County, the second-most populous county in the state, which has had 583 confirmed cases so far.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told KSTP Nobles County is doing well now but that she and her department will be monitoring this re-opening closely.

“We’re definitely learning, as the governor said, how quickly things can spread,” Malcolm said.

“Another thing I’d like to remind folks is we have a system in place if capacity does get constrained in [a] region,” Malcolm added. “There’s a backup system in place to help find the right level of care, intensive care needed for those patients if the region is tapped out.”

Commissioner Malcom, her department and the governor are still working with JBS officials to figure out a plan on how and when, to reopen the entire plant safely. 

Only the kill section of the JBS plant will be open for now to give pork producers a euthanasia option for hogs they've been unable to harvest as processing plants have ceased operations. About 13,000 hogs will be euthanized each day, and no more than 20 employees will be working at a time.

There is no word yet on when the Worthington plant will be fully operational.